Special Education Students and Discipline

A school district must follow specific procedures when it disciplines exceptional children served by an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Removals of children by the school officials refer to out-of-school suspensions (OSS), expulsions, or other disciplinary actions resulting in children not receiving a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Should the school district decide to remove an exceptional student for more than 10 days due to an alleged violation of a code of student conduct, the school district, the parent, and
the relevant members of the child’s IEP Team (as determined by the parent and the school district)
must review all relevant information in the child’s file, including the child’s IEP, any
teacher observations, and any relevant information provided by the parents to determine: 1) If the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to the child's disability; or 2) If the conduct in question was the direct result of the school district’s failure to implement the IEP. This type of meeting is typically called a Manifestation Determination or a Manifestation Hearing.

It is important for parents of exceptional students to have an attorney with them during the Manifestation Determination to make sure that the student’s rights under IDEA are protected. Often, school districts will operate as if the actual decision is made by a majority vote, when it in fact is not. Additionally, due to the potential serious consequences of determining that the school staff did not implement the student’s IEP, the school district is often inclined to stop once the determination has been made that the behavior was substantially related to the student’s disability (and ignore the second decision assessing whether the school failed to implement the student’s IEP). Even further, if the school district, the parent(s) and the relevant members of the child's IEP Team determines the behavior was a direct result of the failure of the school to implement the IEP, the school district must take immediate steps to remedy those deficiencies and create a better IEP to address the student’s behaviors. However, many school districts ignore this responsibility, which often unfairly leads to additional discipline and consequences for the student.

If you need help navigating your child’s rights within the context of special education and discipline, please do not hesitate to call us. Parent to parent, we are ready to help you through this ordeal.

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