School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor

Work With, Don’t Eject, Troubled Students

January 16, 2024 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Chris W. McCarty’s opinion essay, “The Troubling Legal Gap in Schools’ Ability to Prevent Mass Shootings,” (Nov. 1, 2023) misrepresents the law and would worsen public schools’ efforts to keep all students safe.

The title of the piece coupled with McCarty’s opening assertion that many principals bring him violent threats they’re not sure how to act on, and the later focus on students with individualized educational programs can leave readers with the impression that students with disabilities are a major source of violent threats. However, there are no data that substantiates this. His call to unilaterally remove students for subjectively deemed “threats” is terrible policy. Pushing out students with behavioral and mental health needs makes them more likely to commit crimes and carry weapons. Schools must address student needs in a way that protects the safety of the entire school community.

Instead of calls to push students out, there should be calls for more trained educational professionals who can provide essential, evidence-based guidance, resources, and support.

Contrary to McCarty’s assertions, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has not created a “gap” in schools’ ability to manage the discipline of children with disabilities. When a student with prior suspensions exhibits behavior that is deemed threatening, a school district has many available tools, including seeking a Honig injunction from a court to place the child in an interim alternative educational setting; seeking a placement change via the IDEA’s expedited hearing procedures; or obtaining parental agreement to a placement change.

Public schools have the legal and moral duty to provide needed behavioral support to children with disabilities before implementing disciplinary removals. Instead of creating a class of uneducated, unsupervised, and unattached youth, as McCarty’s proposal would do, we must intervene and work closely with troubled youth so they can positively contribute to the school and larger community.

Denise Marshall
Chief Executive Officer
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
Towson, Md.

A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 2024 edition of Education Week as Work With, Don’t Eject, Troubled Students


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Rising Reports of School Violence Are Pushing Teachers to Want to Quit
Educators are being met with violence and aggression from various sources, and it's causing them to consider leaving the profession.
10 min read
Edyte Parsons, a teacher in Kent, Wash., pictured at her home on July 19, 2024.
Edyte Parsons, a teacher in Kent, Wash., pictured at her home on July 19, 2024. Parsons, who has experienced several instances of physical and verbal aggression while at work, has thought about leaving teaching.
Meron Menghistab for Education Week
School Climate & Safety Opinion ‘We Cannot Stop a Bullet’: A Principal Demands Better Gun Laws
When guns are easily accessible, not even the Secret Service can prevent every threat. Why would we expect teachers to do better?
Tracey Runeare
5 min read
A tangled jumbled line leads from a moment of impact to a clear conclusion: a ban symbol.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School Climate & Safety Roads Around Schools Are Unsafe, Principals Say. Here's What to Do About It
Traffic conditions aren't fully within school leaders' control. But there are still steps schools can take to help students arrive safely.
4 min read
Focus is on a flashing school bus stop sign in the foreground as a group of schoolchildren cross a parking lot with the help of a crossing guard in the distance.
School Climate & Safety Video Should Teachers Carry Guns? How Two Principals Answer This Question
One has two armed school employees. The other thinks arming teachers is a bad idea.
4 min read
People hold signs in the gallery against a bill that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session in the House chamber on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
People hold signs in the gallery against a bill that would allow some teachers to be armed in schools during a legislative session in the House chamber on April 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn.
George Walker IV/AP