Discipline of Special Education Students

Anne Littlefield discusses steps to follow if a manifestation determination review reveals a substantial relationship between a student’s misbehavior and his or her disability. This article originally appeared in SpecialEdConnection®.

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A middle school student with ADHD is suspended for 12 days after getting into a fight in the cafeteria. The student’s IEP team conducts a manifestation determination review and concludes that the student’s problem behavior was a manifestation of his disability. What must the district do next?

Under the IDEA, if a student’s behavior is found to be unrelated to her disability, then the district may impose the same consequences as it would for a student without a disability. However, if an MDR reveals that the student’s misbehavior was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the student’s disability or was the direct result of the district’s failure to implement the student’s IEP, then the district must take the steps outlined below.

1. Examine the student’s behavior. Conduct a functional behavioral assessment (unless the district conducted an FBA before the behavior that resulted in the disciplinary removal) and implement a behavioral intervention plan for the student.

If a BIP has already been developed, review it and modify it as necessary to address the student’s behavior. 34 CFR 300.530 (f).

Closely examine the student’s environment and disability-related needs during the FBA, recommended Anne Littlefield, a school attorney with Shipman & Goodwin LLP in Hartford, Conn.

“We’re looking for what triggers the behavior — the conditions that lead to the behavioral incident,” she said. Such triggers might include time of day, unstructured settings, or certain activities, she said. Consider: Is the student trying to get out of a non-preferred activity? Is there a sensory issue at play?

Then, determine what strategies and supports can be put in place to prevent the student from engaging in those behaviors, Littlefield said. Update the behavioral goals and objectives section of the student’s IEP to reflect the new plan.
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Parent-Teacher ConferenceOn December 28, 2016, the Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), issued four guidance documents concerning students with disabilities. Along with two documents concerning students with disabilities in public charter schools (FAQs about Charter Schools and IDEA and DCL Rights of Children With Disabilities in Charter Schools), and “Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools”, OCR issued “Dear Colleague Letter: Restraint and Seclusion of Students with Disabilities” (DCL) and a related Fact Sheet.  The DCL, which includes a series of questions and answers and examples, addresses OCR’s interpretation of the intersection between the use of restraint and seclusion in the public schools and disability discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504).[1]  This DCL, in addition to the statutes and regulations under Connecticut law, provide an important framework for the legally permissible use of restraint and seclusion in schools in Connecticut.
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The Boston Office of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (which is the regional office covering Connecticut) has moved.  Districts should update


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