Can a child with special needs be suspended or expelled?

It is always difficult for parents to find out that their child is in trouble at school, especially if the child’s behavior may lead to suspension or expulsion. Suspension and expulsion are two of the most severe forms of disciplinary action a school can take, and they can have a lasting impact on a child.

If your child has special needs and faces suspension or expulsion, you may wonder if such severe action is appropriate under the circumstances. However, your child’s school can suspend or expel a special education student for the same reasons it can suspend or expel a typical student.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help protect your child’s right to be in school. Some of these steps involve:

  • Requesting and reviewing all evidence
  • Speaking to your child about the incident
  • Identifying witnesses
  • Taking your child to a doctor or therapist
  • Attending all meetings possible about the incident

The reason for the behavior matters

If your child is suspended for more than 10 days in a row or is expelled, the proper procedure must be followed to make sure the action does not infringe on your child’s right to an education. This procedure involves the school district calling a special Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting called a manifestation determination. The purpose of this meeting is to determine if your child’s behaviors resulted from his or her disability or if the behaviors were resulted from a failure to properly implement the IEP. As a parent, you have a right to attend this meeting.

If the IEP team finds that your child’s behaviors are not the result of his or her disability, the school’s typical disciplinary actions may be taken. If you feel that the IEP team’s conclusions are not correct, you have a right to request a hearing.

If it is determined that the behaviors are resulting from the disability or the school’s improper implementation of the IEP, your child will not be subject to suspension or expulsion. Additionally, your child’s school must take actions to address the behaviors, which may include the implementation of a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) or modification of an existing BIP. A BIP is intended to be a proactive plan to address the root cause for disruptive behaviors and provide positive interventions.

Dealing with your child’s suspension or expulsion can be a stressful experience, and sometimes, such action is too severe for the circumstances. However, your knowledge of the process and ability to take appropriate steps can help you better advocate for your child’s rights and pursue the best possible outcome.

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