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Accommodation of Emotional and Behavioral Problems

Angela Oswalt Morelli , MSW, edited by Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Disciplinary Accommodation

Some students with disabilities will have severe emotional, social, and behavioral problems. While the IEP should address these concerns, this does not mean that these students will not struggle to follow school rules and, in some cases, overstep allowable boundaries with the result that they are subject to disciplinary action from the school. Parents should look closely at their state's rules for disciplining children receiving special education services or check with family advocacy organizations for information about the same. Generally, when children are suspended or expelled from school more than ten days at a time, or for more than ten days within the year (constituting a "pattern" of removal from school) this may break the conditions set by the IEP.

upset boyBecause the IEP spells out a child's required services or placement, removing a child from school equals removing them from services. Therefore, an IEP update meeting must occur before this happens. If the misbehavior that triggered the suspension or expulsion was found to be connected directly to a student's disability, they cannot be removed from services for more than ten days for that misbehavior.

During the update meeting, the IEP team will facilitate a manifestation determination. This is a proceeding in which all documentation about the child's disability as well as the specifics about the misbehavior in question are reviewed to decide if the misbehavior is directly connected to the disability. If the two are found to be connected, the IEP team must create an alternative plan to provide the child with needed services while still removing him/her from school, and the school district will have to pay for those services. In practice, most schools just try not to suspend or expel children for more than ten days a year, if they have special education services.

If a student brings a weapon to school, or sells or brings drugs to school, IDEA permits the removal of the student from school for up to 45 days without amending the IEP or arranging for outside provision of services. This removal power is granted to the school so that they can protect their larger student body and staff population.

Testing Accommodation

In addition to disciplinary accommodation, there are other ways that children's various emotional, social, or behavioral needs may be accommodated. For instance, some students who receive special education services also receive standardized testing accommodations, such as being provided with extended time to take tests, special private test-taking space, or having tests read out loud to them. Parents should think carefully about whether such accommodations would be useful or harmful for their children, and request that they be listed in the IEP if they believe that they would be useful. If parents have questions about whether testing or similar accommodation will benefit their child, they should not hesitate to raise their concern with the school's IEP team who can best explain why a particular accommodation was suggested.