Discipline of Students in Special Education Series

The 1997 Amendments to IDEA marked the first time that specific discipline procedures were included in the law. Those discipline procedures addressed how public agencies could respond to behavioral infractions of children with disabilities. They were also rather complicated. You'll be pleased to hear that those procedures have been revised in the 2004 Amendments to IDEA and that disciplinary processes have been streamlined.

The 9 part series of Discipline of Students in Special Education is presented each month (see below) so that you can find IDEA's requirements in specific disciplinary areas. The case study at the end looks at how IDEA's discipline procedures apply in a real-life situation.

Part I: General Authority of School Personnel

What authority do school personnel have to discipline a student with a disability who has violated a code of student conduct? Details here, including the school's general authority, case-by-case determinations, the 10-day rule, and what constitutes a "change of placement."

Part II:  School Authority in Special Circumstances

"Special circumstances" involve weapons, drugs, or serious bodily injury. Find out what authority school personnel have to remove a student with a disability whose violation of the student code of conduct involves any of these three factors.

Part III:  Manifestation Determination

One purpose of a manifestation determination is to determine whether or not the child's behavior is linked to his or her disability. Find out when this process is required and who is involved.

Part IV:  Are Services Provided During Disciplinary Removals?

What is the school system's obligation to provide special education and related services to a student with a disability during his or her disciplinary removal? IDEA addresses this critical question in its "extent of services" provisions.

Part V:  Appeals

Both the LEA and the parent of the child with a disability have the right to request a due process hearing to appeal decisions taken during disciplinary procedures, although the reasons these parties may do so differ.

Part VI:  Child's Placement During the Appeal Process

Where will the child be placed until a decision on an appeal is issued the original placement from which the child was removed during the disciplinary action, the interim alternative educational setting, or another setting that the parents and school agree to? If you're wondering what happened to the "stay-put" provision, you'll find your answer here.

Part VII:  What is Basis of Knowledge?

How do IDEA's discipline procedures apply to children not previously determined to be eligible for special education and related services ? It all depends on whether or not the school system had what's known as a "basis of knowledge."

Part VIII:  Reporting Crimes

Are school systems allowed to report crimes committed by children with disabilities? Yes, with conditions.

Part IX:  Putting It All Together: A Case Study

See how IDEA's discipline procedures apply in real life by looking at the case of Charlie.

How to Prepare for a Manifestation Determination Review: A Handout for Parents

One of the most devastating calls parents can receive is the school district calling to tell them it has initiated an expulsion proceeding against their child due to poor behavior. If their child has an Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) before the expulsion process can start they must hold a Manifestation Determination review. This review must be held within 10 days of the conduct.

School Discipline: A Resource Collection

IDEA, our nation’s special education law, provides the frame for how students with disabilities may be (and may not be) disciplined at school for violating a code of student conduct. IDEA’s rules are complex and multi-faceted, so it’s very important to use authoritative resources on the subject of school discipline. In this edition of NASET’s Discipline of Students in Special Education series, you’ll find articles, federal guidance, good reads, webinars, presentations and slideshows, and webpages offering additional information. The collection of materials listed has been reviewed and recommended by a working team of Parent Center staff from different regions of the country, coordinated by NE-PACT, the Region 1 Parent Technical Assistance Center, in collaboration with NH Parent Information Center.

Placement and School Discipline

This issue of NASET's Discipline in Special Education series will cover placement and school discipline. The information provided comes from the Center for Parent Information and Resources. States, schools, and communities are understandably very concerned with school safety these days. Providing safe environments in which children can learn, free of drugs and violence, is one of education's top priorities. In keeping with that concern, it's not surprising that IDEA includes provisions that address the discipline of children with disabilities in school settings and at school functions. IDEA's discipline provisions were first introduced in the 1997 amendments and have been retained in the 2004 amendments, where they've been streamlined. Even so, they remain complex, spelling out the authority of school personnel to take disciplinary action when the student violating the code of conduct is a student with a disability. Under certain conditions, the actions that schools can take include removing students with disabilities from their current placement, placing them in an interim setting or, if appropriate, suspending or expelling them. This authority may be exercised only in specific circumstances, which we will discuss here.

Equity in IDEA

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education made available the public final regulations under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), aimed at promoting equity by targeting widespread disparities in the treatment of students of color with disabilities. The regulations address a number of issues related to significant disproportionality in the identification, placement, and discipline of students with disabilities based on race or ethnicity. In addition to requiring a standard methodology, the regulations shine a spotlight on disparities in the discipline of students with disabilities on the basis of race or ethnicity by requiring states to examine districts for significant disproportionality in their disciplinary practices. Specifically, the regulations clarify that States must address significant disproportionality in the incidence, duration, and type of disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions, using the same statutory remedies required to address significant disproportionality in the identification and placement of children with disabilities. This issue of NASET’s Discipline in Special Education series will focus on Equity in IDEA as it related to discipline for students receiving special education and related services.

New Guidance Helps Schools Support Students with Disabilities and Avoid Discriminatory Use of Discipline

This issue of NASET’s Discipline in Special Education series focuses on new guidance released last month from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). This guidance helps public elementary and secondary schools fulfill their responsibilities to meet the needs of students with disabilities and avoid the discriminatory use of student discipline. These newly released resources are the most comprehensive guidance on the civil rights of students with disabilities concerning student discipline and build on the Department’s continued efforts to support students and schools through pandemic recovery. The new resources reflect the concern, particularly in light of the prevalence of student mental health issues associated with the pandemic, that some students with disabilities are not receiving the supports and services necessary to address their educational needs, including their disability-based behavior.

Confronting Racial Discrimination in Student Discipline

This issue of NASET’s Discipline of Students in Special Education series focuses on confronting racial discrimination in student discipline. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division jointly released the Resource on Confronting Racial Discrimination in Student Discipline. The departments recognize and appreciate school administrators, teachers, and education staff across the nation who work to administer student discipline fairly, and to provide a safe, positive, and nondiscriminatory educational environment for all students, teachers, and other educators.

Discipline Discussions: The Power of Asking “Why”

In the 2021–22 school year, 84% of public schools reported that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted students’ behavioral development, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In schools across our country, for children with and without disabilities, this can look like classroom disruptions, rowdiness, or acting out. Indeed, the pandemic’s impact continues to affect all ages, from our youngest learners to adolescents and has often resulted in disciplinary removals. While the pandemic’s effects are felt by children with and without disabilities alike, one approach to addressing these challenges originates from research and study into supporting the behavioral needs of children with disabilities. This edition of NASET’s Discipline in Special Education series comes from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Blog, https://sites.ed.gov/osers/2023/04/discipline-discussions-the-power-of-asking-why/ . It was written by Valerie C. Williams, Director of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Blog. The focus of the article is on issues surrounding discipline of students with disabilities and the power of asking “why”.

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