In cases of minor disciplinary measures, such as time-outs, detentions, and short-term (less than 10 days) suspensions, students with disabilities generally are treated the same as any other student. However, in cases of long-term suspension or expulsion, disabled students are offered more protection.

How Are Students in Special Education Treated Differently in Expulsion Cases?

Students with special education are offered greater protection under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in order to keep them in school. Some of the protective measures provided by IDEA are:

  • The student's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) must address any behavioral problems that may affect the student's education and also include alternative ways to deal with these problems aside from the standard disciplinary measures of suspension and expulsion.
  • The school must also prepare a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) that evaluates when the student's behavior problems are most likely to occur, what environment the behavior is likely to occur in, and why the behavior occurs. The school must then prepare a behavioral intervention plan that addresses the behavior problems and implements ways of dealing with them.
  • If a student with a disability faces a long-term suspension that is greater than 10 days or expulsion, the school must first hold an IEP meeting before making a decision to suspend or expel the student.
  • The law ensures that even if a student with a disability is expelled or suspended from a school, he will still have access to free and appropriate public education.

Are There Any Exceptions to This Protection?

Yes, there are three cases in which the school can impose a change in placement (long-term suspension or expulsion) without a parent's consent:

  • The student brings a weapon to school, or uses, sells, or solicits illegal drugs at school or during school activities
  • The student's behavior was in no way caused by or related to his disability, which must be determined by the IEP team
  • The district requests a due process hearing and proves by substantial evidence that the student is a threat to himself or others

What If a Disabled Student Is Not in Special Education?

A student who has not yet been found eligible for special education may be eligible for special protection if the school had knowledge of the student's disability before the incident took place.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

If you have questions about how disciplinary procedures apply to students with disabilities, you may want to contact a government attorney. A lawyer will be able to explain you or your child's rights under IDEA, and guide you through any administrative procedures that may be necessary to protect the rights of you or your child.