There is an important issue that is coming up more and more in schools today. This is the issue of school discipline. Many students have been caught up in School Districts’ enforcing their so-called Zero Tolerance policies. Districts have a great deal of latitude in disciplining their students; including suspension and expulsion.
You may not think there is anything you can do. However, there are certain safeguards in place to protect children receiving special education services which you may not be aware of. And it is very important that you are at least familiar with them so you know what questions to ask. In short, there is something you can do.
New York defines a “Disciplinary Change of Placement” to be a suspension or removal from a student’s current educational placement that is either for more than 10 consecutive days OR if the student is subject to a series of suspensions or removals which accumulate to more than 10 school days in a school year, if the student’s behavior is substantially similar to the previous incidents.
Why is this important?
I’m glad you asked. It’s important because within 10 school days of any decision to change the placement of a child with a disability due to a violation of a Code of Student Conduct, the District, parents, and the IEP (Individualized Education Program) team must review these incidents.
The intent of the review is to determine whether the conduct was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to the child’s disability OR if the conduct was the direct result of the School District’s failure to implement the IEP.
Should it be determined that the behavior was indeed a manifestation of the child’s disability, the child must be returned to her original placement and a Behavioral Intervention Plan must be implemented.
What about kids not eligible for Special Education and Related Services?
These children are entitled to certain protections as well. If a behavior violated a Code of Student Conduct, he may assert any protections entitled to a child with a disability. IF the District is deemed to have “known” that he was a child with a disability before the behavior leading to the disciplinary action occurred.
That’s all fine and good. But what if the District did not have “knowledge” that the child was a child with a disability?
There may still be some protection for them. A request for an evaluation may be made by the parents during the disciplinary time period.
You must seek an education attorney and obtain evaluations from relevant private evaluators.
I can’t emphasize this enough. There are times that I advise parents to advocate on behalf of their children before going to an education attorney – this is not one of them. There is too much at stake in these situations and the process is very time sensitive. I recommend seeking the advice of an attorney as soon as possible.