Can a public school require a physical exam before admitting a student?

Requiring a physical examination is often standard practice before a child may be admitted to many schools. The requirement is usually upheld by the courts, but there may be caveats.

Requiring a child to get a physical examination to ensure he or she is healthy and free of communicable diseases is a sound public health decision, and thus such required examinations are usually permitted. Most school districts also require the child to have all of the major disease vaccinations prior to registering in any school within the district. Both the examination and vaccination requirements are a means of protecting the other students in the school from diseases with which the child may become infected if he or she was not vaccinated.

Further, in some instances, a school may require an examination of a child to ensure the child's special needs are fully understood. Public school districts are not allowed to discriminate against any child due to a physical or mental impairment as long as the school is able to accommodate the child’s needs either physically or educationally. In a situation where a child is impaired, the school may request that a physician examine the child to verify that the school is indeed equipped to meet the needs of the prospective student. 

In any event, when a school district requires a medical exam, the school district's need for the examination must be weighed against the parents' rights and the child's rights (especially the right to privacy). If a parent has a religious objection to a child undergoing a medical examination or being vaccinated, for example, there usually must be some option provided for an exemption to the requirements.

If you are concerned about the requirements in your state or need help finding out how to opt out of the requirements for a medical exam or vaccination, you should consult a lawyer in your area to identify your options.