Suspensions have long been a form of punishment for kids that display reckless behavior or have violated school policies. Suspensions can be on campus or off campus. There seems to be a bit of a gray area when it comes to suspending, or even disciplining children with special needs. When kids with special needs get into fights at school, the rhetoric generally goes, “nothing can be done because he/she has special needs.”
This is simply not the case, as a child with special needs rights are governed by the IDEA and part of those rights are to be provided with a FAPE. Per the National Association of School Psychologists, there is nothing in the IDEA that restricts schools from disciplining children with special needs. In fact, it is argued that by not addressing any dangerous behaviors, the child is not being provided with an appropriate education. There are ways of disciplining that schools can implement depending on the exhibited behavior. According to Wrightslaw, a school can request an alternative educational setting for up to 45 days (if behavior is likely to result in serious injury to the child or others), and the placement must provide services per an established IEP.
Long term suspensions or expulsions cannot be done if the exhibited behavior is a result of the manifestation of the child’s disability; the IEP team and school must reevaluate the procedural safeguards put in place and conduct a functional behavioral assessment to readdress the behavior goals set forth in the IEP. While the child is suspended, the services must still be provided. To learn more about disciplining children with disabilities, please see: http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/discipl.suspend.crabtree.htm and http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/discipline.stud.dis.dwyer.pdf