IDEA Discipline Action Alert - 11/04
Dear Senator Corzine,
I am very concerned over the discipline amendments to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA distinguishes between mild and harmful behavioral concerns, and relevant disciplinary actions. In general, the U.S. Department of Education decided that “a child cannot be long-term suspended or expelled for behavior that is a manifestation of his or her disability”. However, if the behavior was not a manifestation of the child’s disability…“the child can be disciplined in the same manner as nondisabled children”[300.524(a)]. IDEA also “expanded the authority of school personnel to remove a child with a disability for up to 45 days (with positive behavioral interventions) …for all dangerous weapons and for knowing possession of illegal drugs…”(U.S. Dept. of Ed. as per IDEA 300.520(a)(2)). This also applies if the child with a disability is substantially likely to hurt themselves or others [300.521]. A change in placement must be for the same amount of time that a child without a disability would be subject to discipline. “School officials can report crimes committed by children with disabilities…to the same extent as they do for crimes committed by nondisabled students” (U.S. Dept. of Ed. as per IDEA 300.529). The protections in IDEA regarding discipline…”do not prevent school officials today from maintaining a learning environment that is safe and conducive to learning for all children” (U.S. Dept. of Ed “Discipline for Children with Disabilities: Key Changes in the Regulations” Spring 1999). As the parent of a small child, of course I wouldn’t want my little girl going to school with other kids who may have guns, drugs, or be dangerous. As the parent of a child with a disability (end stage renal disease), I am aware of how students with special needs may be placed inappropriately in segregated settings. Let me pose a question: How many of the recent school shootings were committed by children who were “classified”? I’m not saying that there aren’t children with disabilities who may be dangerous, just like nondisabled students. But these stereotypes, which were also used recently to create fear when the developmental centers closed, must be countered with facts. As Ethan Ellis, Director of the NJ Developmental Disabilities Council has said “statistics show that people with disabilities are 75% more likely to be victims of crimes”. IDEA as it stands protects both students with and without disabilities.
Family Voices-NJ Coordinator
Family Voices is a national network speaking on behalf of children with special healthcare needs.