Monday, June 22, 2009

CT: Special needs students not subject to disciplinary actions, kudos to CT principal

By Kindall Nelson
Chicago Special Needs Examiner
Posted on June 22, 2009

An 8-year-old Connecticut student with special needs attempted to reach for a teacher's purse in school one day. When he was prevented from touching it, he became angry and physically assaulted the teacher with punches, kicks, and scratches. A complaint has now been filed against the principal of that school for this incident. The teacher, Melissa Vargas, says that the school's policy for physically assaulting a teacher is a 5-10 day suspension, and calling the child's parents as well as the police. She is upset that, in this case, nothing was done to the student.

What Miss Vargas has failed to realize is that, according to IDEA, this student can not be punished the same way other students are punished. In fact, punishment would be completely inappropriate in this case. Kudos to Principal Brown for understanding this.

According to IDEA 2004, if a student has a behavior that impedes his learning or the learning of others, the school must discuss this at an IEP meeting and put a behavioral plan into place. This plan must use positive behavioral supports and other strategies to address that behavior. It is only after all plans and strategies have been exhausted that suspensions and other disciplinary actions should be considered, and only if there is a clear goal in mind behind those actions. For example, a suspension in order to find a more appropriate educational placement for the child.

Another thing to consider is the fact that IDEA also says that a teacher who has a child in their class who has special needs, must be offered “high-quality professional development” as to the correct use of positive behavioral interventions and supports. This could include courses on de-escalation as well as information on sensory breaks or positive reinforcement.

Without knowing the child in question, it is impossible to determine the correct course of positive behavioral support that he needed. However, arrest and/or suspension are not the answer since, in most cases, a child can not be punished or disciplined in the traditional sense for a behavior that is the result of his/her special need

To read more about this story, see Walsh pricipal defends his approach to discipline is also a wealth of information for parents of children with behavior disorders. Find up-to-date information on: What You Need to Know About IDEA 2004: IEPs for Children with Behavior Problems

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