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What happens if your child is having behavior problems at school? Many children can have challenging or disruptive behaviors that are part of their disability. If behavior interferes with their learning or with the learning of others, a behavior plan should be developed for students who are covered either by an IEP or by a 504 Plan. Sometimes a child with a disability may do something more serious that violates the school code of conduct. The school may decide on a discipline action that could include suspension or expulsion. When this happens, there are safeguards to ensure that students are not unduly punished because of actions that are a result of their disability and are beyond their control.
The Complex Care Center at Cincinnati Children's provides information and resources to help families find information on behavior and discipline.
When behavior interferes with a student's learning or with the learning of others, the IEP team will sometimes conduct a functional behavior assessment (FBA) as a first step to identify when and why the behavior occurs. The IEP team will look at the cause of the behavior and develop positive strategies for change. While this is often part of the IEP, it is not required for the development of a 504 Plan. The FBA includes:
This information is usually gathered by the school psychologist and teachers. If you have results from psychological or psychiatric evaluations, information about medications or input from your child's physician, you should consider sharing this with the IEP team. The results of the FBA process will be more accurate if the assessment information is complete as possible. The FBA will be used to write a positive behavior intervention plan that will become part of the IEP.
If your child has an IEP or a 504 Plan, a behavior intervention plan (BIP) must be developed if the behavior is related to the disability and substantially interferes with the student's educational program. This plan can be incorporated as goals on the IEP or it can be a separate plan that is attached to either the IEP or the 504 Plan. The BIP should include positive ways to address your child's behaviors. This can include goals that teach your child appropriate behaviors or modify the classroom environment that will decrease the chance of the behaviors occurring in the first place. If at any point, the behavior plan is not working, call the team together to modify it. Schools may bring in an outside health care provider or agency to consult on the development of a plan.
Even with a behavior plan in place, there may be times when your child violates the student code of conduct and faces disciplinary actions such as suspension or expulsion. A student with a disability may be suspended for up to 10 consecutive school days or for shorter periods that add up to 10 school days over the course of a school year. The school is not required to provide any educational services during this period.
A change of placement is considered to occur when the student is:
The school must conduct a review, called a manifestation determination to determine if the behavior is a result of the child's disability or the school's failure to implement the existing IEP or 504 Plan.
If the team finds that the behavior is significantly related to the disability, the team must either develop a behavior intervention plan if one does not exist, or review and make necessary changes to the existing plan. The student will then return to the classroom he was in before the suspension or expulsion.
If it is determined that the behavior is not a result of the child's disability, protections for students on an IEP differ significantly from those on a 504 Plan. If a student is on an IEP, educational services must be provided to enable to child to continue to participate in the general education curriculum and to progress toward meeting the IEP goals, even though they may be offered in another setting. A student on a 504 Plan can be suspended or expelled without any additional educational services.
The discipline process changes significantly for students on an IEP or a 504 Plan, under certain circumstances. School personnel may immediately remove a student to an interim alternative educational setting for up to 45 school days, regardless of whether the behavior was related to a disability, in cases where the student does any of the following while at school, on school premises or at a school function:
If the school district feels that the student is still dangerous after the 45 day term has ended, it can seek another 45 day removal.
If a parent disagrees and want to appeal the results of the manifestation determination or the disciplinary action, a request for a quick due process hearing can be filed for students on an IEP. An appeals process is also available for students on a 504 Plan.
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