When children are ill, they belong at home. The rules of thumb are you stay at home with fever greater that 100F, undiagnosed rash, diahrrea, vomiting, and cough. During the last several months with H1N1, H1N3 flu viruses circulating, the only way to stop spread was to isolate sick children at home. If you offer rest and support, you are back at school quicker and are not as likely to infect others who may be less able to ward off infections.
Wayne Yankus, MD, FAAP
expert panelist: pediatrics
This is a great question and truly depends on the circumstances. I know personally that when I realized I could get away with "playing sick" in 4th grade, I enjoyed a good couple days home that weren't necessary =)
However, when a child is truly sick and showing symptoms I think the parent must consider many things before jumping to a decision.
What will the student be missing in class today?
How sick is he/she? (bedridden? just a cough?)
How much class has he/she missed already?
How contagious is he/she? (early part of the cold? Later?)
In general I would say that if one's child can seem to function fine at home and is in the later part of a cold when less contagious than he/she should be fine at school.
I would not send my child to school sick. The main reason would be that if she does not feel well, then learning is not going to happen anyway. And of course, it is courteous to think of other children catching the germs. A lot of parents are simply not aware their child is either sick or getting sick. But I feel it should ultimately be health over school lessons/work.