Students who receive special education services receive certain protections under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA). Certain procedures and rules must be followed when dealing with children who receive special education services.
The concept behind these protections is that they ensure that all students receive a free and public education and that school officials cannot use discipline as a means to limit or prohibit students from receiving an education.
The laws are not designed to protect disabled students from being disciplined. If a behavior is not related to their disability, they can receive the same discipline that any other student would receive. However, if a behavior is related to their disability, procedures must be followed to ensure that the problem is being addressed.
- A child with a disability cannot be suspended for more than ten days for any behavior as it is considered a change of placement. This includes repeated violations of the same rule.
- Before a school can recommend a change of placement, an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) team must meet and determine if the behavior is a manifestation of the child's disability.
- A disabled student cannot be expelled or receive a long-term suspension for any behavior that is a manifestation of his or her disability.
- School officials can recommend a change of placement (alternative school) for up to 45 days at a time if the weapons or illegal drugs were involved or if it likely that the student will cause harm to him or herself or others. The parents do not have to agree for this change in placement to take place but are allowed to file an appeal.
- A behavioral intervention plan (BIP) must be created to address any disruptive behaviors that are a result of the student's disability. This can only be done after a functional behavioral assessment is done
- If it is determined by the IEP team that the behavior is not a result of the student's disability, he or she may be disciplined like any other student. During any suspension or expulsion period that is over ten days, the student must continue to receive a free, appropriate public education. The IEP team will determine what is considered appropriate for that student.
Essentially, these protections are in place to guarantee that students are not punished for their disability. It does not give them free reign to behave as they choose. Rather, it helps identify disruptive behaviors that are or are not caused by the disability and ensures that both are dealt with accordingly.