Stories and Grievances: Special Education
Special Education, Discipline, and the Law
School Districts around the country are throwing special education students out of their mandated classes in order to take the kids' money (from the federal government, as well as state and city taxes) and prevent them from taking tests that will be counted as part of the school's record, pursuant to the No Child Left Behind legislation. It's called "Doing well despite kids who cannot perform".
Public schools throughout America are mandated by the No Child Left Behind legislation to report the test scores of all the children in the school, including children in special education programs. If the children attending the school are in special programs and have not been given their services, the school may be held accountable. So, what can the administration of a school do to "look good" even though the special needs kids may not be able to succeed on a test? Some options that we at parentadvocates have seen used: grades on the test are changed; the test is given the day before, not recorded, and then given again, with all the answers; the child or children are accused of assaults on the teacher, using/bringing a knife, fighting, pushing the teacher, saying a swear word, etc., all to get them out of the classroom during the test.
The Jefferson Parish School does not want any more "disruptive" special education children:
Jeff schools will have to rethink discipline State opinion backs special education law
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
By Rob Nelson
West Bank bureau
Two Jefferson Parish School Board members will have to find an alternative way to battle behavioral problems involving special education students now that the state attorney general's office has issued an opinion supporting a federal law governing how such students are disciplined.
In the midst of a spate of violent incidents at West Bank schools in the fall, board members Ray St. Pierre and Etta Licciardi sought the opinion to question the constitutionality of disabled students having separate and less strict discipline guidelines than their regular education peers.
At the time, they decried the "dual systems of justice" and said the federal policy, which limits the number of days special education students can be suspended, put other students' safety at risk.
However, in a Dec. 19 opinion, the state attorney general's office called the policy "appropriate" and said it did not violate the rights of special education teachers.
Both St. Pierre and Licciardi conceded that they were not surprised by the opinion and vowed to find other ways to stem what they have described as an ongoing problem.
In past School Board meetings, both have inquired about establishing facilities solely for special education students with behavioral problems, similar to existing Jefferson schools for traditional students with discipline troubles.
"We're going to explore that," St. Pierre said this week. "I think we need to discuss it internally to see what our options are."
Licciardi was more tight-lipped Tuesday, saying the school system is "on the brink of some other idea that can happen."
Besides jeopardizing the safety of students and faculty, the policy is out of sync with real-world justice, which does not make exceptions for the disabled, Licciardi said.
"I really think we're doing kids a disservice" by maintaining dual discipline guidelines, she said.
The state opinion specifically refers to the Individual with Disabilities Act of 1975, the federal bedrock of special education policy.
Under that law, schools cannot suspend or put a special education student into an alternative setting for more than 10 school days if it's proven that his or her infraction was a result of a disability. The only exception is if the incident involves a weapon, drugs or serious injury.
If the behavioral problem is not linked to the disability, schools can discipline special education students under rules governing traditional students, the law says.
In October, the School Board unanimously voted to seek the opinion after several violent incidents at West Bank schools, some of which involved disabled students.
A sixth-grade girl at Marrero Middle School reported being sexually assaulted in September in a bathroom by two special-education students. Days later, three special education students were accused of assaulting a student over his fake diamond earrings.
In October, police made seven arrests at John Ehret High School in Marrero after a brawl erupted in an office.
As it awaited the opinion, the board voted in November to put more police on West Bank campuses.
Rob Nelson can be reached at email@example.com or (504) 826-3796.
Can the School Expel My Child with ADHD & LD?
"Our son is almost 16 years old and is still in the 8th grade. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5. Recently, he was evaluated by a psychologist who found that he has serious learning disabilities. He takes medication and sees a psychologist. The school is aware of his diagnosis but have never offered any help."
"He has been suspended several times this year - recently, he was suspended for 10 days. The school sent us a letter that they plan to expel him for the rest of the year. What did he do wrong? He did not ’t fight or sell drugs. He went home after school with a friend in a car without getting permission first."
"We have always supported the school but this isn't right. He is so far behind and feels so hopeless about school - if they expel him, I'm afraid he will drop out."
"Can the school expel our son for this offense? Are they just trying to get rid of him? What should we do next?"
You say the school is aware that your son has ADHD and learning disabilities. He has long-standing academic problems. The school has retained him. Despite evidence that he has a disability that is adversely affecting his educational performance, the school has not offered to evaluate him nor have they provided any special education services.
After suspending him several times, they decided to expel him. His "offense" is not related to weapons or drugs. He isn’t a danger to himself or others. You ask, “Can they do this?”
Yes, they can do this if the child's parents don’t know their rights or don’t know how to assert their rights. If the school has not evaluated your son or found him eligible for special education, it’s unlikely that you know these rights.
Here are some general suggestions about how to proceed.
1. Read Emergency! Crisis! Help! In this article, you will learn what to do (and not do) when you are in the middle of a crisis, and how to make short-term and long-term plans.
2. Consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about special education issues. An attorney can help you decide how to proceed, given the law in your state or jurisdiction.
How to Find an Educational Consultant, Advocate, Attorney offers strategies to find an advocate or attorney who represents children with disabilities.
For a list of parent attorneys, visit the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates website and the Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities for your state.
3. Talk to your son’s psychiatrist and psychologist. To deal with the school, you need help from outside experts who know your son. Because the school retained your son and did not provide him with special education services, he has fallen far behind his peers. To master the necessary skills to succeed in life, he will need intensive educational help. What are his educational needs? How can these needs be met?
4. Write a letter to the school advising them that you do not agree to the expulsion. Use the letter you sent to us as the basis for your letter. Describe the problem and your concerns about your son. In your letter, do not point fingers or blame the school overtly. More advice about letter writing and sample letters.
5. Learn about your rights and responsibilities under the special education laws. Here is some general information to help you get started.
* Read the discipline section of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act with Pete Wright's commentary.
Our book, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, includes the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, all implementing regulations, and decisions issued by the U. S. Supreme Court in special education cases.
* Read Frequently Asked Questions About Discipline from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
* Read the decision in Community School District No. 93 v. John F. - this case has similarities to your son's situation. Decision in MS Word.
6. Learn how to be an effective advocate for your son. Our Advocacy page includes dozens of articles that will help, including:
Advocating for Your Child - Getting Started. Good special education services are intensive and expensive. Resources are limited. If you have a child with special needs, you may wind up battling the school district for the services your child needs. To prevail, you need information, skills, and tools.
From Emotions to Advocacy - The Parents Journey - Strong emotions cause parents to react, often with damaging results. Don't shoot yourself in the foot. If you are having problems with the school, use your head.
7. Subscribe to The Special Ed Advocate newsletter - this free online newsletter will provide you with up-to-date information about advocacy and legal issues.
8. Explore Wrightslaw. You will find dozens of articles about parent advocacy, frequently asked questions, cases, and other resources that will help you be a more effective advocate for your child.
Advocacy Library l Law Library l FAQs l News
Use the links on the navigation bar on the left side of every page to learn more about various topics - behavior and discipline, eligibility, letter writing and paper trails.
A positive approach to assisting special education children: