If my child has qualified for Special Education, how should the school handle discipline?
Special Education students have special rights when it comes to discipline. The school district may not suspend a Special Education student for more than 10 days without holding a special meeting called a Manifestation Determination.
The purpose of the meeting is to determine whether the student’s behavior was a manifestation of his or her disability. If the behavior is a manifestation of a child’s disability, the IEP team must develop an appropriate plan to address the student’s behavior (which does not include expulsion). If the team determines that the behavior is not a manifestation of the student’s disability, then the relevant disciplinary procedures applicable to students without disabilities can be applied.
The Manifestation Determination asks the student’s IEP team to determine whether the behavior for which the student is being suspended is related to the child’s disability, to the reason the student has an IEP, and/or because the school did not follow the IEP.
If the IEP team has not provided the services indicated in the IEP or the infraction is related to the student’s disability, the school cannot suspend the student (except for serious misbehavior). They must work with the student, their family and the IEP team to come up with a plan to instruct and motivate the student to use other, more pro-social behaviors than the one for which they were disciplined. If the team finds that there is no relationship between the behavior and the disability, then the student may be disciplined in the same manner as a non-disabled student.
Can a lawyer come to these meetings? How can a lawyer help me in this situation?
You can bring a lawyer or an advocate with you to these meetings. Bringing a lawyer with you can help ensure that the school district provides all of the services required by law. Michelle Fontenot’s experience as both an attorney and a mental health and behavioral consultant for school districts allows her a unique ability to both ensure the district follows the law, but also recommends and provides optimal services for your child.