At Feinstein Education Law Group, we believe that suspension and expulsion from school never benefit the student. Exclusionary discipline can adversely impact development, health, and educational progress for any student.
Unfortunately, schools routinely exclude students, and it is not uncommon for students with disabilities to be disciplined at a much higher rate. When a child is repeatedly suspended or facing an expulsion hearing, it is critical to consult with an experienced attorney, and you must move quickly. If your family is facing this problem, we can help. We have been assisting Connecticut families with educational law needs for over 25 years.
Student rights around discipline are complicated and difficult to navigate. Students who have an individualized education program (IEP) and have been determined eligible for special education, or students who have an accommodation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, have special protection when it comes to school expulsion. Students who have not been determined eligible for special education may also be able to assert protection if a school district knew the student had a disability before the behavior occurred.
When a school district refers a student with an IEP to an expulsion hearing, the district must first make sure that the student is not being disciplined for behavior that is substantially related to the student’s disability or for behavior that is a direct result of the district’s failure to implement the student’s IEP. This is called a manifestation determination and will take place at a manifestation Planning and Placement Team (PPT) evaluation.
If the PPT determines that the behavior is a manifestation of the student’s disability, the school district must:
Conduct a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) if they haven’t already
Implement a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) for the student (or revise an existing BIP)
Return the child to the placement from which the student was removed unless the parent and the district agree to a change in placement as part of the modification to the BIP or IEP. However, for behavior involving drugs, weapons, or serious bodily injury, even if it is a manifestation of the student’s disability, the student may be moved to an interim alternative educational setting where the IEP will be implemented.
If the PPT determines that the behavior was not a manifestation of the student’s disability, the school district may proceed with an expulsion hearing. The student and parent/guardian may also challenge the PPT’s determination in a due process hearing. During expulsion, a student with an IEP must continue to receive the educational services required for delivering a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA, so that the student may participate in the general education curriculum, even if it happens in a different setting, and continue making progress towards the goals and objectives in the student’s IEP.
For students who require accommodation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or have a 504 Plan, but do not require an IEP, the school district must also determine whether the student’s disability caused the conduct that is the basis for the expulsion hearing. Generally, for a 504 student, the district would not be able to expel a student for behavior caused by a disability unless the conduct includes the possession of illegal drugs/alcohol.
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If you have received communication from the school, you must act quickly to protect your child’s best interests. To discuss your case with an experienced attorney, schedule a free consultation at one of our office locations. We can be reached by calling or by completing our online contact form.