Many students struggle with behavior at school. Common examples include defiance, inattention, antisocial behavior, and self-injurious behavior. It is the school district’s responsibility to react to such maladaptive behaviors by providing the kinds of intervention services the child needs to move beyond these behavioral issues. Support services for children should provide positive strategies for dealing with behavioral issues, and function as a collaboration-based partnership with the families.
Bullying includes physical or verbal conduct, including communications made in writing or via electronic text, that places a student or students in reasonable fear of harm. Bullying does substantial mental and physical hurt to the victim. It can also affect a child’s academic performance and involvement in other school-related activities. California has a number of anti-bullying laws designed to help teachers and family members deal with a case of bullying. California school districts prohibit harassment, intimidation, or bullying, and must have statements, procedures, and resources available to educators dealing with such cases. Teacher training is also required.
Civil Rights Litigation
Federal civil rights laws prohibit discrimination in all public schools and institutions that receive U.S. Department of Education funds. That includes elementary and secondary school systems, colleges and universities, vocational schools, proprietary schools, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, libraries, and museums. These laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age. If private schools accept federal funds, they must adhere to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. However, there are also many exemptions for private schools when it comes to discrimination, which can impact their degree of accountability to federal civil rights laws in the U.S.
Due Process Proceedings
Due process is a formal way for parents to resolve complaints with the school around a child’s education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides this process for complaints regarding special education disputes. Due process starts when a parent or guardian files a written complaint against the school. If no agreement is reached, there is a hearing, the results of which can be challenged in court with the help of an education rights attorney. Due process is strictly related to the education of children with disabilities and cannot be used for general education issues.
Eligibility and Assessment
Before a child can start receiving special education services, an initial evaluation has to be conducted to see if the child classifies as a “child with a disability” as defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). There are many different types of disabilities, from Autism to physical conditions to emotional disturbance. (IDEA also has a comprehensive list of categories for disabilities.) The school district will conduct an evaluation and assessment to test a child’s various skills and needs, including overall health, vision and hearing, academic performance, communicative skills, and motor abilities, among others. Parents can request an evaluation, or the school system can ask to evaluate the child.
Expulsions and Suspensions
A suspension is when a student is temporarily banned from going to their school and attending regular classes. Disorderly conduct, violence, possession of firearms or drugs, and threatening someone are typical grounds for suspension. Expulsion is more extreme, and happens when a student is not allowed to attend classes or even be on school property for a much longer period of time, sometimes even permanently. Students have rights in both suspension and expulsion cases. Additionally, students with special needs have extra protections in these situations. (See Manifestation Determination.)
Independent Educational Evaluations
An Independent Educational Evaluation, also known as an IEE, is an evaluation conducted by a neutral, third-party professional not affiliated with the school district. Parents and guardians can request an IEE for their child if they disagree with the results of the evaluation of their child conducted by the school district. Whether the school district or the parent pays for the IEE will depend upon the factors of the individual case.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
The Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, is a written document that details the special education and related services a child with special needs will receive. An IEP is developed by the child’s parents or guardian and the school staff, and is written in keeping with laws and requirements around education for children with special needs. It usually covers general education curriculum, extracurricular activities, and nonacademic activities. The IEP is meant to set measurable goals for the child. It should also clearly state what the school and/or school district is responsible for providing.
Juvenile Delinquency is a proceeding in the juvenile court for minors (those under 18) that engage in unlawful conduct. Children with disabilities and special needs are at an increased risk for delinquency and involvement in the justice system. Too often, they do not receive the special education and health services they are entitled to by law. Students with disabilities charged with convictions still have rights under Section 504 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In Manifestation Determination, a school must determine whether a child is facing disciplinary action for a violation of conduct because of their disability. This review is conducted by the local education agency along with parents and any relevant members of the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team. It examines whether or not the child’s disability or special need was the main reason for their behavior that violated school rules and conduct. If the team decides the child’s behavior was substantially related to their disability, that child cannot be removed from the school.
Nonpublic School Placements (NPS)
Nonpublic School Placements (NPS) are for students with special needs that cannot get an adequate education from their local public school, even with modifications and supporting services to their classroom experience. In other words, NPS is an option when a normal Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is not sufficient. When this happens, the school district pays for the child’s placement at the NPS. The NPS is meant to function as an extension of the public school system, providing a place where the district’s most vulnerable students can learn safely and effectively. An important distinction is that a NPS is not like regular private schools, which require tuition and operate separately from the public education system.
The Record Review process reevaluates a child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and other educational records after the initial evaluation. A parent/guardian or a teacher can request this review. The review examines whether the student is meeting their goals set down by the IEP, and also evaluates whether the student’s needs have changed. For example, the child may need more assistance and services at school. Conversely, they may no longer qualify for special education services.
Section 504 Plan
A 504 plan is named for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973, which guarantees certain rights to people with disabilities. A 504 plan is for children with disabilities who do not qualify for special education but need special accommodations and/or services in the classroom and other parts of public or publicly funded schools. These plans identify what a child needs in terms of accommodations. They are designed to enable the student to learn in the regular classroom, rather than a separate, special education one. Children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), short-term disabilities, and conditions like diabetes or asthma may qualify for a 504 plan. Whether the child needs a 504 plan or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) will depend on that specific child’s condition.