Discipline Policy: The nation’s leading special education group wants Congress to construct an additional barrier for educators to clear before they discipline special education students by sending them home.
Suspension or expulsion policies already in place for special education students should be used as a “last resort,” the Council for Exceptional Children says in a recommendation presented this month in New York City at its annual conference.
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was written to protect such students’ access to educational services, said David Egnor, the senior director of public policy for the CEC.
Mr. Egnor said the IDEA, which is up for renewal by Congress, should be changed to say that such disciplinary provisions should be applied only when parents and educators can’t agree on a plan to improve a student’s behavior. Parents, educators, and specialists address behavior when designing a student’s annual individualized education plan. For students with disabilities, those plans set goals and lay out strategies for meeting them.
“There is some confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the current IDEA discipline policy that warrants clarification,” Mr. Egnor said. “The vast majority of discipline cases should be handled by parents and school officials during the [IEP] process.”
Some members of Congress have talked in the past year about imposing more stringent discipline provisions on special education students. Contention over discipline dominated debate during the last reauthorization of the law, which helped stretch out the process to three years.
Mr. Egnor said the CEC opposes any other substantive changes to the current law.
Before 1997, when the last revision of the IDEA was completed, the law would not allow teachers to remove a child from school without parental consent or a court order. That stipulation was known as the “stay put” provision.
But in 1997, an amendment was added allowing schools to suspend or expel students with disabilities if they violated a school disciplinary code with behavior unrelated to their disabilities. The IDEA requires that states ensure that children with disabilities continue to have public education services during suspensions of more than 10 days.
The group will gather input from members and present final recommendations to Congress during the IDEA reauthorization, now in its early stages.
—Lisa Fine firstname.lastname@example.org
A version of this article appeared in the April 17, 2002 edition of Education Week