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Chapter 10: Student Discipline — Addressing Serious Behavior Issues and Concerns

students-with-disabilities-girl-overwhelmed-with-workWho is this for?

This chapter is for parents whose child may be the subject of disciplinary action by the school or for parents of children with significant behavior issues that may put them at risk for disciplinary action.

Why is this important?

The conditions for disciplining special education students need to be thoroughly understood by parents - preferably before their child is the focus of such actions. While IDEA extends certain protections to special education students, schools can subject them to the same disciplinary actions allowed for all students.


What can parents do?

If their child is at risk for conduct that requires disciplinary action, parents should make sure that behavior and conduct issues are addressed during the IEP process.

IDEA Words and Terms to Know

  • Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA)

    A problem-solving process for addressing student problem behavior. FBA relies on a variety of techniques and strategies to identify the reasons for a specific behavior and to help IEP teams select interventions that directly address the problem behavior.
  • Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)

    A plan to address problem behavior that includes, as appropriate, positive behavioral interventions, strategies, and supports; program modifications; and supplementary aids and services that may be required to address the problem behavior.
  • Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES)

    A setting other than the student's current placement that enables the student to continue to receive educational services according to his or her IEP. The IAES must enable the student to continue to participate in the general education curriculum, although in another setting, and progress toward meeting the goals set out in the IEP. Students in an IAES should also receive, as appropriate, a functional behavioral assessment, behavioral intervention services and modifications that are designed to address the behavior violation so that it does not happen again. The particular IAES is determined by the student's IEP team.


Disciplinary Actions of 10 Days or Less

A student with a disability, who has an IEP in effect, can be disciplined like any other student for 10 consecutive school days or less if he or she violates the school's code of conduct.


Disciplinary action generally involves removing students from their current educational settings and placing them in either in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, or an interim alternative educational setting. During the time the student with an IEP is in one of these other settings, the school is only required to provide educational services (including special education) if the school district also provides educational services to non-disabled students in the same circumstances. When school personnel decide to discipline a student by removing the student from the current educational placement, the school must notify the parents on the same day the decision is made and provide the parents with a written copy of the notice of Procedural Safeguards.


Code of Conduct
Schools have a responsibility to make sure that all students, including those receiving special education, are familiar with the school's code of conduct. Parents should be sure to understand the code of conduct and help their child understand the expectations and consequences involved with violating the code. The IEP team should determine any specialized help and instruction the child may need to understand the code and consistently demonstrate the appropriate classroom and school behaviors.


Disciplinary Actions Beyond 10 Days

For students with a disability whose disciplinary action exceeds 10 consecutive days in the same school year, or when frequent disciplinary actions add up to more than 10 school days in a school year and clearly indicate a pattern, the school must provide special education services that allow the student to:


  • Continue to participate in the general education curriculum, although in another setting

  • Progress toward meeting the goals outlined in the student's IEP


The IEP team will meet to determine the exact educational services needed while the student is assigned to the disciplinary setting. In addition, if the behavior is found to be related to the student's disability, the IEP team must plan for a functional behavioral assessment and the development of a behavior intervention plan based on the results of the assessment. If the student already had a behavior intervention plan in place, the IEP team must review if the plan was being followed and revise it as needed to address the problem behavior that led to this disciplinary action. For students whose behavior is not determined to be directly associated with their disability, the IEP team should consider the need for a functional behavioral assessment and behavior intervention plan.

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