A recent hearing officer decision ruled that an injury to a student’s paraprofessional was not sufficient to permit the school district to unilaterally transfer the student in an interim alternative educational setting (IAES) under the IDEA. Under the IDEA, a school district may unilateral remove a student to an interim alternative educational setting (IAES) for up to 45 school days, without regard to whether or not the behavior was a manifestation of the student’s disability, if the behavior caused “serious bodily injury.” Serious bodily injury is defined as bodily injury which involves: (A) a substantial risk of death; (B) extreme physical pain; (C) protracted and obvious disfigurement; or (D) protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty (34 CFR 300.530 (g)(3)).

In this case, the 12 year old student struck a paraprofessional on the head four times with a closed fist. The paraprofessional reported immediate pain, complained of headaches and suffered blurred vision. She was transported to the hospital, complaining of neck and back pain, but was not prescribed pain medication. The hearing officer had noted that while the district believed the injuries to be “traumatic, painful and significant,” the “common, minor symptoms from four knuckle raps to the head by a small child” did not fit the statutory definition of extreme physical pain under the IDEA. See In re: Student with a Disability, 54 IDELR 139 (SEA KS February 26, 2010).