Jason A. Brasno
Behavior, Discipline, & Special Education
The world of special education contains language and rules that require specialized knowledge for a parent, and sometimes a school district, to understand the procedural safeguards and substantive rights in place to protect a child’s access to a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
These include behavioral supports and the disciplinary measures a school can impose upon a child with a disability.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services released guidance on this topic in July of this year.
Included is a 41 page question and answer document for parents and school districts considering the behavioral needs and discipline of a child with a disability under IDEA.
Key takeaways from Part A include:
IDEA and its implementing regulations require IEP Teams to follow certain procedures to ensure that IEPs meet the individualized needs, including the behavioral needs, of children with disabilities. (5)
IDEA specifically requires IEP Teams to consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, for any child with a disability whose behavior impedes their learning or that of others. (6)
The LEA must ensure that the child’s IEP is accessible to each regular education teacher, special education teacher, related services provider, and any other service provider who is responsible for its implementation. (6)
Further, each teacher and provider must be informed of their specific responsibilities for implementing the IEP and the specific accommodations, modifications, and supports that must be provided for the child in accordance with the IEP. (6)
The failure of the IEP Team to consider and provide for needed behavioral supports could also lead to behavior that is inconsistent with the school’s code of student conduct. (8)
To the extent a child’s behavior, including its impact and consequences (e.g., violations of a school’s code of student conduct, classroom disruptions, disciplinary removals, and other exclusionary disciplinary measures), impede the child’s learning or that of others, the IEP Team must consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to address that behavior. (8)
However, according to the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio’s discipline data mirrors a national trend of students with disabilities being more likely to experience exclusionary discipline practices than nondisabled students.
In Ohio, while students with disabilities represent 15.2% of the population, they make up a disproportionate percentage of student expulsions (20.3%), out-of-school suspensions (30.4%), in-school suspensions (26.6%), in-school alternate discipline (27.5%) and emergency removals by district personnel (38.5%).
These data suggest that we need to do better as IEP teams to support the needs and to protect the rights of disabled students with behavior based challenges.
This begins with holding ourselves accountable to applying the same objective and evidenced-based lens that we use to examine "learning" and the many other disabilities that impact our children - ones that don't seem to wield the personal and value laden stigmas such as those that are found with behavior based learning needs.
We must not continue to fail these vulnerable students who will become our Nation's future citizens.