Children with ADHD, Aspergers, bipolar disorder, and other disorders which affect behavior may at some point find themselves in trouble at school. Problems with impulse control, hyperactivity, and other issues make them more likely to misbehave. So you might wonder… what if my son or daughter hurts another child? What if he or she causes loud disruptions or breaks school rules? Can a special needs child be suspended? Expelled? Does my child have any protections due to his disability?
The Tightrope Walk
If a student with a disability breaks a school rule, it’s a difficult situation for the parents, but also for the school administrators. The school staff must maintain a safe, orderly environment in order for children to learn. Yet they don’t want to be accused of violating the rights of one of their disabled students. It’s a bit of a tightrope walk.
Ten Days of Suspension is Permitted
Your child’s school does have the right to remove your son or daughter if he or she violates a code of school conduct, without any consideration of his or her disability, for a period of ten (10) consecutive days OR ten (10) cumulative days during the period of one year. During these ten days of removal from school, the school is not required to provide alternate education services.
(If my child were suspended for even one day, I would immediately request an IEP review, which is your parental right. During the meeting, make sure every protection is in place to prevent this situation from happening again.)
According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA), if your child’s behavior is so problematic that more than ten days of suspension is required, a manifestation determination review should be conducted.
What is a manifestation determination review?
Your child’s IEP team, consisting of the school principal and all the school professionals who work with your child, must conduct a meeting within ten days of the disciplinary decision. They must decide whether the misbehavior which took place is due to the child’s disability.
Here are the things that the IEP team should consider:
- Teacher observations of your child.
- Assessment results on record.
- The student’s last IEP goals and her current placement.
- Whether your child’s placement is appropriate considering his disability.
- Whether your child’s disability impairs his ability to understand right, wrong, and possible consequences.
- Whether the disability limits the child’s ability to control behavior.
- Whether the school is at fault for not providing adequate supervision or for not following IEP guidelines.
For example, if your child has bipolar disorder and lashes out during a manic episode, the school would very likely consider it a manifestation of that disorder. However, if your child with dyslexia stabs another student with a pencil, it would be unlikely that such an action was a manifestation of his learning disability.
What happens if the team finds that the behavior is a manifestation of the disability?
The IEP team must implement a behavioral intervention plan (BIP) to reduce or eliminate the problem behavior in the future. The student will most likely be returned to his current placement, unless the team and parents determine a change of placement is necessary. Additionally, the district may decide to temporarily remove the child from school for up to forty-five (45) days, if that student participated in serious conduct violations such as drug sale/usage, violence or possession of a weapon, or dangerous acts to himself or others. During this 45-day removal from school, the district must provide alternate education for your child in a different setting.
What happens if the team finds that the behavior is not a manifestation of the disability?
Although the district will still provide special education services, they have the right to change the child’s placement to an alternate setting. (In other words, they can expell your child from school and put her elsewhere.) If this happens, it’s up to you, the parent, to appeal the decision.
If you disagree with decisions regarding your child’s education, you have rights. For more information, read my blog: When You Disagree With Decisions Regarding Your Childs Education: What to do.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.