Special Education: Discipline

Is my child obligated to adhere to the same disciplinary rules as any other student?

The code of student conduct that your child’s school district has in place applies to all students, including students who receive special education and related services. The following will provide you with an overview of certain obligations that both you as a parent and the school district must fulfill when your child has been disciplined due to behavior that may or may not have been disability related.

Manifestation Determination Hearing

Your child’s PPT, of which you are a part, will meet to review the relationship between your child’s behavior and his or her disability. The PPT determines if your child’s behavior was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to his or her disability. The PPT will also determine whether your child’s behavior was caused by the school district’s failure to implement his or her IEP. If the PPT determines that your child’s disability did not cause the subject behavior, then your child will be disciplined as would any other child who behaved in that particular manner. The manifestation determination must be conducted within 10 days of any decision to change the placement of your child due to a violation of the code of student conduct.[1]

If the PPT finds that your child’s behavior was a manifestation of his or her disability or was due to a failure to implement his or her IEP, then your child may not be removed from their current educational setting. Thereafter, the PPT must conduct a functional behavioral assessment and implement a behavioral intervention plan.[2] A functional behavioral assessment looks at why your child behaved the way he or she did by collecting data to determine the possible causes of the problem and identify strategies to address your child’s behavior. The behavioral intervention plan, which is also developed by your child’s PPT, must be designed to teach your child appropriate behaviors and eliminate behaviors that impede on his or her ability to learn, as well as that of other students in your child’s class.

School personnel may remove your child from his or her current educational placement and into another appropriate interim educational setting for a maximum of ten (10) consecutive school days.[3] Your child’s IEP determines what an appropriate interim educational plan setting will be.[4] Although your child may be removed from his or her current educational setting and into an interim educational setting if it is found that his or her behavior was not a result of their disability, the child still must continue to receive educational services, so as to continue participation in the general education curriculum and to progress toward meeting the goals set out in his or her IEP.[5]


There are three circumstances permitting your child’s school district to place your child in an interim educational setting for up to 45 days, irrespective of whether your child’s behavior was found to be a manifestation of his or her disability:

  1. He or she carries a weapon to school or a school function, or is in possession of a weapon in school or at a school function;
  2. He or she knowingly possesses or uses illegal drugs, or sells or solicits the sale of controlled substances while at school or a school function; or
  3. Inflicts serious bodily injury upon another person while at school, or at a school function.

Moreover, a hearing officer may place your child in an interim educational setting if he determines that keeping your child in his or her current placement is substantially likely to result in an injury to your child or to others.[6]

If you disagree with any decision regarding the placement of your child following a disciplinary finding or manifestation determination, you have the right to initiate a due process hearing.[7] Pending a decision by the hearing officer, unless you and the school district agree otherwise, your child will remain in the disciplinary placement until the earlier of the issuance of a decision or expiration of the placement.[8] In addition, the hearing officer may return your child to the placement from which he or she was removed if the hearing officer determines that removal was not valid or your child’s behavior was a manifestation of his or her disability.[9]

The local educational agency (LEA) is responsible for arranging the expedited due process hearing and must do so within 20 school days of the date the complaint requesting the hearing was filed. The hearing officer must make a determination within 10 school days after the hearing is held.[10] Decisions as to an expedited due process hearing pertaining to any of the matters in dispute are appealable.[11]

The following will set forth in more detail the procedural requirements that a due process proceeding entails, as well as the procedures for other alternative dispute resolution methods that as a parent you have at your disposal.

[1] 34 C.F.R. §300.530(e).
[2] 34 C.F.R. §300.530(f)(1)(i)-(ii).
[3] 34 C.F.R. §300.530(b)(1).
[4] 34 C.F.R. §300.531.
[5] 34 C.F.R. §500.530(d)(1)(i).
[6] 34 C.F.R. §300.532(b)(2)(ii).
[7] 34 C.F.R. §300.532(a).
[8] 34 C.F.R. §300.533.
[9] 34. C.F.R. §300.532(b)(2)(i).
[10] 34 C.F.R. §300.532(c)(2).
[11] 34 C.F.R. §500.532(5).

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