Discipline and the IEP

Hi there Mrs. Andrews….this is Secretary so-and-so at ABC elementary school. Yes, Andrew is having a bad day again and we need you to come get him.” Sound familiar? Guess what? That kid wasn’t just having a bad day….that child was suspended.

Kids who are impulsive, easily influenced by peers, don’t yet have good decision making skills….unstructured time can be a real disaster. Discipline and the IEP can be a confusing and tricky and often misunderstood concept.

With the arrival of warm weather comes the arrival of more discipline. Teachers and administrators are done. Done. So they suspend, suspend, suspend. Mind you, there is absolutely zero clinical data anywhere that states that suspensions are good for any kid, but for kids with IEPs, they can be detrimental and actually help increase the negative behavior. They are strictly punitive.

What Can Parents Do?

So what can a parent do? Your child has an IEP, and you’re nodding your head after you read these paragraphs…yep, that’s your kid.

Discipline and the IEP is probably the one topic that garners me the most email and phone inquiries as an advocate. And proportionate to that, I have written multiple blog posts on the topic, going over the various segments of the discipline process. Here they all are for you, in one place.

Discipline and the IEP

  • Suspensions and the IEP: Read this article on steps you can take if your child with an IEP is suspended from school. Remember, any time your child is asked to leave school and their peers are not, that is considered a suspension in the eyes of the law. So if the school calls you and says your child is having a bad day and you need to come get him…that’s a suspension. Yes, really.
  • Manifestation Determination Hearing: If you have already been told that you need to come to a Manifestation Hearing, or if your child has been suspended several times and you want to request one, this is for you. Remember, a MH is not a ‘get out of jail free’ pass. It’s about getting your child the supports and instruction they need to prevent the behaviors.
  • Trying to Prevent Suspensions: There are a few things that parents can do to help prevent their child from being suspended. Read these actions you can take in your IEP to make it happen.
  • Holding Accountable: We still need to hold our kids accountable for their actions! Read these tips, because when your child has disabilities, it can be tricky…but it can be done. We do our kids a huge disservice if we do not teach them accountability.

It’s not your imagination…

If it “feels like” to you that your child is perhaps being targeted or treated unfairly…it may not be your imagination. One of the reasons I am passionate about educating parents (and school personnel!) about the correct way to handle discipline with our kids, is that the high school to prison pipeline is very real, and very much targets kids with IEPs unfairly.

Here are some additional related articles:

Well, now I’m depressed! Yeah, sure, I hate talking about this stuff, because it does depress me. Knowledge is power. So once you fix your immediate situation, work on fixing the system. Get together and organize with other parents. Read up on Restorative Justice programs and then get your district to adopt those measures.

We can create change … it has to start somewhere, if not you, who?

Good luck and keep me posted on your progress!

Lisa Lightner is a Chester County, PA mom of two. This post was adapted from the blog A Day in Our Shoes, which she co-authors. It provides support, resources and advocacy services for parents of children with special needs.

Categories: MomSpeak