Frequently Asked Questions: Discipline
Does the Missouri Safe Schools Act apply to students with disabilities?
Yes. However, this state law specifies that its provisions are subject to the state and federal regulations on disciplining students with disabilities. Those provisions come into play primarily where the disciplinary action involves a long-term suspension (defined in question #7) or expulsion, and where a student has been expelled from a prior district and is seeking to enroll in a new one.
Can students with disabilities be removed from school for possession of a dangerous weapon, possession or use of illegal drugs, or sale or solicitation of a controlled substance?
Yes. Such students may be removed from school in several ways: (1) a 45-calendar-day interim alternative educational placement; (2) a court injunction; (3) a long-term suspension or expulsion if the student’s conduct is determined to be unrelated to the student’s disability; or (4) a 45-calendar-day interim alternative educational placement following a decision by a formal due process hearing that the student is dangerous. (The 45-day interim placement also can be renewed through additional due process hearings if the student is deemed to be dangerous.)
Can a school district "stack" suspensions when drugs and weapons are involved?
Yes. When a student is involved with a dangerous weapon or drug situation, there is nothing to prohibit the school district from imposing an initial short-term suspension, followed by a 45-calendar-day alternative interim educational placement, and followed by a long-term suspension or expulsion (if the student’s conduct is then determined unrelated to the disability).
Are school districts required to use 45-calendar-day placement for drugs or weapons, or can they go right to a long-term suspension/expulsion if conduct is unrelated to the student’s disability?
No, a school district is not required to use the 45-calendar-day interim alternative educational placement when a student is involved with a dangerous weapon or drugs. School personnel may consider any unique circumstances in a case-by-case basis and determine if a short-term suspension is best. A school district may proceed immediately to a long-term suspension or expulsion if the IEP team determines the conduct is unrelated to the disability. As stated above, the school district may also "stack" suspensions. This means a school district could short-term suspend a student to allow time to convene the IEP team to determine if the child’s disability is related to the behavior that is subject to the disciplinary action (manifestation determination). If the conduct is determined to be unrelated to the student’s disability, a long-term suspension or expulsion may then be imposed.
How does the school district remove students with disabilities from school if they are dangerous or violent?
There are four options: (1) A court injunction; (2) a due process hearing order for a 45-calendar-day alternative interim educational setting; (3) a long-term suspension or expulsion if the conduct is unrelated to the disability; or, (4) a change of placement through the IEP process to a more restrictive environment based on needs of the student. This last method cannot be used as a long-term suspension/disciplinary option.
What is considered a "long-term" suspension?
A long-term suspension is a suspension in excess of 10 consecutive days or in excess of 10 days cumulatively where a pattern of suspension is created. To determine whether a pattern is created, school districts must consider:
1) if the series of removals total more than ten(10) school days cumulatively in a school year;
2) if the child’s behavior is substantially similar to the child’s behavior in previous incidents that resulted in the series of removals; and,
3) such additional factors as length of each removal, the total amount of time the child has been removed, and the proximity of the removals to one another.
When a student with a disability is suspended for more than 10 days in a school year, does the student still receive services?
When a student with a disability is suspended for more than 10 days in a school year, but is not long-term suspended, the school district administration, in consultation with the child’s teacher, will determine which services are needed to enable the child to appropriately progress in general curriculum and appropriately advance towards achieving goals set out in the IEP.
When can students with disabilities be long-term suspended or expelled?
Students with disabilities may be long-term suspended or expelled if the conduct leading to the discipline is unrelated to the student’s disability. However, even where the conduct is unrelated, the student must continue to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) and services which allow for continued progress in general education curriculum pursuant to an Individualized Education Program (IEP) during the period of long-term suspension or expulsion.
Do students have a right to services when short-term suspended?
No. Students who receive short-term, out-of-school suspensions do not have a right to continued services. Students with disabilities who are short-termed suspended must be provided any services provided to nondisabled students. An example is providing homework to students who are short term suspended. However, if such students have been suspended in excess of 10 days cumulatively, the school administrator, in consultation with the student’s teacher, will determine if a pattern of suspensions exists. If no such pattern is determined, school personnel, in consultation with at least one of the child’s teachers, determine the extent to which services are required on the 11th day and thereafter.
See Question and Answers 6 & 7.
What are some discipline options that can be used with a student with a disability?
Short-term suspensions; community service; detentions; paying for damage to school property; Saturday school; counseling or social skills training; long-term suspensions or expulsions (if the conduct is determined unrelated to the disability); 45-calendar-day interim alternative educational placements if the student possessed a dangerous weapon, or possessed/used illegal drugs, or solicited/sold controlled substances.