Picking Up Your Child From School
Many parents of students with disabilities find themselves frequently asked to come pick up their child from school because of behavior issues. This can be extremely frustrating since it often results in the parent missing work or other obligations. More importantly, the disabled child misses out on important instructional time that is being afforded to their nondisabled peers. Additionally, sometimes parents are told that the child cannot return to school. What can parents do under these circumstances?
The importance of accurate attendance records. In general, a child with a disability cannot be removed from school for disciplinary reasons for more than 10 days in a school year. Partial day suspensions or exclusions from school count toward a student’s 10 days. Once the 10-day limit is reached, further disciplinary removals are considered a change in the child’s placement, and the school district must hold what is called a manifestation determination meeting to determine if the disciplinary offense was related to the child’s disability. (See our website for more articles that deal with manifestation determination meetings in greater detail.)
Therefore, if your child is being frequently sent home during the school day, make sure to ask if the child is being officially suspended and request documentation. If the school does not document the incident as a suspension, make sure to document the removal yourself in writing so that the school cannot later claim that you voluntarily took your child home and that no suspension occurred. Send an email to school staff describing when you were asked to come get the child, and ask that the removal be counted as an official full or partial-day suspension. Once the 10-day threshold is reached, request a manifestation determination.
Could you refuse to pick up your child? The short answer is yes, if the school is not officially suspending your child, you could refuse to get them. However, be prepared that the school may decide to proceed with other action, such as getting police involved. Additionally, if school personnel seem incapable of protecting your child from harming himself or others, it may be unsafe to leave your child at school. Thus, parents should exercise their judgment and consider the risks before refusing to pick up their children altogether.
Options for intervention. There are other things you can do to stop the cycle of repeatedly being called to come get your child. You can request an emergency IEP meeting to discuss the behaviors that are resulting in your child being sent home. You can ask for a comprehensive evaluation, including a Functional Behavioral Assessment (“FBA”), to examine what is triggering your child’s behaviors. If the school district has already evaluated your child and you disagree with their evaluation, you can ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation at public expense to get an outside opinion on what is causing your child’s behavior issues. You can ask the school district to develop or revise your child’s Behavior Intervention Plan. You can ask for a behavior specialist to be brought in to consult with school staff. All of these things should be requested in writing. Finally, you can seek the assistance of an attorney to discuss your legal options.
For more information, please visit www.mcandrewslaw.com or call (302) 380-4975. The information within this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult with an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
By Lauren O’Connell Mahler, Esq., Leader of McAndrews Law Offices’ Wilmington, DE Office