Back to Basics:
Discipline basics to keep in mind in a changing school landscape
Schools are currently more alert and concerned about potential threats to school safety than ever. Parents of many kids with disabilities, though, are concerned that their children’s unintentional, impulsive, and/or disability-related behaviors could result in harsh or extreme disciplinary actions with far-reaching implications. Parents cannot follow our children to school every day, and even if we could, we wouldn’t be able to curtail all behaviors. (Just think of all the things they do at home that we don’t like!) Here are a few “basics” to keep in mind in dealing with your child’s misbehavior in the school setting.
The school cannot require you to obtain a mental health evaluation of your child with a disability before allowing him or her to return to school after a behavioral incident. If the school district or charter school thinks such an evaluation is necessary, they must issue a Permission to Evaluate and contract to have the testing done themselves, but they cannot force a parent to obtain it and threaten to keep a child out of school in the meantime.
If your child with a disability is suspended for more than 10 days, the school must hold a manifestation determination review, at which your child’s team must determine whether the incident in question was directly related to any of your child’s diagnosed disabilities (not just the one that appears on the front of his or her IEP) and/or whether the incident was a result of the school’s failure to implement your child’s IEP. If either question is answered yes, the school cannot punish your child for a manifestation of his or her disability (unless the offense involved serious bodily injury, a weapon, or drugs).
If your child does bring a weapon or drugs to school, or causes serious bodily injury to another, he or she can be removed to an alternate placement for 45 school days. The child cannot be expelled unless the school district holds a manifestation determination review and does not find that the action was a manifestation of the child’s disability as described above. Keep in mind that while your child is removed from their typical placement, they are still entitled to receive an education. Continuing their education and special ed services can be particularly important to improving behaviors and aiding the possibility of an eventual successful transition back into a “normal” school.
Furthermore, though school districts and charter schools certainly can report concerning behaviors to law enforcement, the law requires that when they do so, they must ensure a copy of the student’s special education and disciplinary records are provided to the proper authorities for consideration.
Most importantly, discipline cases move quickly and can have significant repercussions. If you are concerned about your child’s behaviors, consider contacting our office for a free consult to discuss your concerns.
By Caitlin McAndrews, Esq., McAndrews Law Offices, P.C.