Dealing with Discipline
Discipline in the classroom can be defined as, the action required by a teacher toward a student (or group of students) after the student's behavior disrupts the education in the classroom. The behavior could also be breaking an established "rule" created by the teacher, the class, the school, and even society.
School discipline can also mean behavioral strategies used to regulate students and keep the classroom, as well as the school, in order. The purpose is to "control" the actions, habits, attitude and behavior in the classroom.
**MY THOUGHTS** Part of my job as a teacher is to maintain control over my classroom. Control is a harsh word. It is not "listen to me I am the teacher I am the boss do what I say". It is more like, these are the behaviors and actions that individuals do that are appropriate in society (and the classroom/school). We treat others with kindness, dignity, and respect. These behaviors are "practiced" in the classroom and are used in our daily lives in and outside of the classroom.
I don't believe the teacher is "the boss". I believe the entire class has input as to what behaviors are acceptable in their classroom. I also believe in actions speak louder than words, consistency, and modeling. I would never ask my students to behave in ways that I am not behaving. I can not ask them to be kind to each other and then let them see me yelling at a student, another teacher, a parent, etc.
Consistency is key. Guidelines ("rules") are established at the beginning of the year. This way all student's will know what to expect.
Dealing with Discipline
It is important when we are dealing with discipline, that we ask ourselves an important question. Why is this student acting this way? Is there something going on at home? Has the student always been this way? Could the student benefit from special education and related services (maybe they have a learning disability that makes school extremely difficult for them [either diagnosed or not])?
Often times, IEP's are developed and the student's case history has not been studied. This is the school's responsibility (to ensure that the student is identified as having a disability [if that is the case] and that an IEP is developed that will enable the student to receive a FAPE in their LRE).
It is important, when dealing with discipline, that documentation is occurring often. This will help teacher's and other individuals involved with the student, understand what strategies have been used, what worked, and what did not work. There is no exact formula. All students are unique.
Hopefully, appropriate and accurate records, and documentation were taken. This gives me, as a teacher, a series of events that will help me understand a little better why the student is having disciplinary troubles.
As I mentioned before, this is not an exact science. In order to remedy the behavioral issue, I may need to try several different strategies before finding one that works for the individual student.
The above is true for ALL students. There are some differences when we are dealing with discipline with students with disabilities.
When you see a student with a disability acting out, it is easy to just pass them off as "being in special education". As if that makes the behavior acceptable. Is it acceptable to the parents of the child that was hit by the student with a disability (just an example)? If a student with a disability sets a trash can on fire and it is called a "manifestation of his disability" does this excuse his behavior? If these students do "get away" with this behavior, it would be considered a misunderstanding of the procedural safeguards.
**PLEASE REMEMBER** The IDEA procedural safeguards were designed "to assure that students with disabilities (receiving special education and related services) were not immediately removed from their parent-approved program without consent and were guaranteed a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) within their least restrictive environment (LRE)".
IDEA does not say that schools can not discipline children with disabilities. The school has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for all students. I hope that I will learn how to handle these sensitive situations and that positive behaviors will increase and negative behaviors will decrease.
No matter the intervention that is used, the intervention should always be evaluated (and reevaluated) to make sure it is effective (reevaluated periodically to make sure the intervention is still effective or if modifications need to be made). An example is expulsion. Expelling a student could result in a positive behavioral change in some students and have a negative effect on other students. Research has shown that the likelihood of students dropping out of school increases with expulsion. There is little research as to the effectiveness of expulsion.
**PLEASE NOTE** Student's with disabilities cannot be expelled.
Dealing with Discipline
It was interesting to learn that, IDEA was amended to "better ensure that children with disabilities whose behavior blocks learning have those behaviors addressed within their IEP". This tells me that the students disability can affect their behavior and their learning and thus the importance of all aspects of the IEP (the team, parental consent, etc.).
It was also interesting to learn that, although the IDEA was amended, it was not necessarily implemented right after it was amended. Students with disabilities were misunderstood and punished to the point where many dropped out of school.
There is a balance that must be obtained in order to keep the school environment, and everyone in it, safe. Possession of drugs and weapons will cause removal (whether the student is a student with a disability or not). There is a remedy that offers placement in an alternative setting for 45 days. Others include a parent supported change in placement, change in the IEP, and removal by a hearing officer (these placement changes occur when it appears that the current placement could cause harm to the student or to others).
These placement changes are in hopes that positive behavior will increase and there would be a reduction in expulsion and suspension as interventions for behavior problems.
As a future teacher, part of my job entails "positive interventions". Schools have the legal responsibility to maintain safe and violence free schools. This is why there is a code of conduct established. The code of conduct contains specific consequences if the code has been violated. This will ensure that everyone is aware of behaviors that will not be tolerated (by anyone) and let's everyone know the consequences that will happen due to their behavior.
Teachers and schools, have an important job. We are teaching the future generation not only in school subjects. We are teaching them socially acceptable behaviors. It is important to remember that these students are learning how to behave. This can become tricky because, as with anything else, students learn differently.
Some students will learn how to behave through observing other students (that student got in trouble for pushing someone so I will make a note not to push anyone). Others may have to learn the appropriate behaviors through the consequences. It's tricky when the level of learning varies (especially with students with disabilities because, by definition, these students have trouble learning and developing skills).
If the student's behaviors are a "manifestation" of their disability, they can not (by law) be punished the same way or to the same extent as a student without a disability (this could be considered discrimination). They have a right to a FAPE in their LRE even when their behavior violates a rule or code.
I have a responsibility, as a future teacher, to teach the code of discipline to my students. Students must understand this as should their parents. Parents can always voice their concerns about the code that has been established in their child's school. Parents know their children best. They may have some important insight as to what codes could be violated by their child (ex. student with autism hits himself, other students, or adults-this would be a violation of a code that relates to violence-this would be good for the school to be aware of). IEP goals can reflect and help the child to not violate a code.
The IEP can be an effective way to manage the students behavior. An IEP can include strategies that include positive behavioral interventions and supports to address the behavior. In my research, I found that, one of the responsibilities of the IEP team is to address and prevent behavioral problems. The team needs to determine what specialized instruction the student needs to understand the code and to act appropriately. Behavior goals can be written in the IEP or there can be a separate behavior plan.
**JUST A THOUGHT** I may be wrong however, I think that some behavior problems may just remedy themselves with the proper supports and services offered and agreed upon in the IEP.
The importance of parent involvement is stressed here (as with other areas that involve a child with a disability), when we talk about dealing with discipline. It is important that parents participate in the IEP that way behavior issues and solutions to them can be discussed.
Some positive aspects of including behavior in the IEP: when there are specific behavior goals included in the IEP (these goals must be measurable-other academic goals are also included in the IEP of course), when it comes time to review the IEP (either because of observations or the timeline), teachers (and other school personnel) could be able to determine if a behavioral problem may be coming to a head (they could have signs of behaviors to watch out for in the student). This is a great way to notice problematic pattern of behavior and then prevent it (hopefully).
Violations involving weapons and drugs, require quick and deliberate action (from the school). When weapons are involved, the first priority is always safety. If automatic expulsion is the consequence, written notice must be given to parents (this would be part of the code of conduct).
Drug use and possession are not tolerated in schools. It is also a violation of state and federal laws. Drug use and abuse may be higher for groups of children with disabilities. Drug use and abuse requires professional intervention. Schools should be aware that drug use, abuse, and addiction can be higher among some groups of children with disabilities.
The IEP team can address some behaviors. It is important to note that the law requires a "functional behavioral assessment" when behaviors have not been addressed. A true functional behavioral analysis or assessment cannot be effectively carried out as proposed in the law by the IEP alone.
Such assessments require a series of observations by highly qualified professionals who already know the child in depth, including the child’s strengths and needs. Such an assessment should also follow the guidelines of any review, reevaluation or assessment according to the law’s requirements for reevaluation.
In other words, an assessment should consider the existing IEP goals and services as well as what is needed (to be added). School psychologists should be involved in this review as the person most qualified to address behavior and learning.
A child with a disability who causes injury to self or others cannot be placed in a different program without parental consent. If the parent does not consent, a hearing officer can be requested to determine if a change in placement is required, when there is evidence that suggests that keeping the student in their current placement could result in injury to themselves or others. The hearing officer must examine all the evidence to determine if the student should remain in their current placement. The hearing officer must also determine that the interim alternative 45-day placement, provides effective IEP services to ensure a FAPE, including participation in the general curriculum.
There is also a manifestation review. This happens when the IEP has addressed the problem behavior, the team has valuable information about the student and the student's disability, and the services the IEP is providing. If a suspension or 45 day alternate placement is recommended, the IEP team (assisted by professionals), should determine if the student's behavior is related to their disability. This will also help them determine if the current placement is appropriate.
This review will also include interventions that were tried and services provided to prevent the problem behavior. This review is comprehensive and focuses on many factors (not just the student's behavioral goals). It is cautioned that, determining if a behavior is a manifestation of the child's disability, can be a complex process.
Under IDEA, "a manifestation determination must include an analysis of the child's program as well as the child's physical, cognitive, developmental, mental and emotional challenges. The child’s behavior may be considered unrelated to the disability if the disability did not impair the child’s understanding of the impact of the serious consequences of the behavior and if the disability did not impair the ability of the child to control the behavior".
If it is determined that the behavior is a manifestation of the child's disability, if the behavior is dangerous, expulsion is not an appropriate action. The student cannot be expelled for that behavior. This does not mean that the child must remain in their current placement though. If the placement or the IEP is not meeting the needs of the student, modifications must be made.
**PLEASE NOTE** Regardless of the placement, the child is still guaranteed a FAPE.
If the behavior is not a manifestation of the student's disability, regular discipline, according to the code of conduct and consequences may apply, provided that the student continues to receive a FAPE. In order for the student to continue to receive a FAPE, they may have to be in a more restrictive environment.
Students who are students with a disability under IDEA, are guaranteed a FAPE in their LRE with an IEP. These are regulations that schools must abide by.
In Part B of IDEA, you will find the discipline procedures as per IDEA. I will discuss them generally at this time.
There is a case-by-case determination. This means that there may be unique circumstances and that all cases are reviewed individually. This is not a black or white area. There can be some grey and we won't necessarily know what the grey area is until it comes to light.
School personnel may remove a child with a disability who violates a code of student conduct from their current placement to an "appropriate interim alternative educational setting, another setting, or suspension for not more than 10 consecutive school days".
After a child with a disability has been removed from his or her current placement for 10 school days in the same school year, the school must provide the student their necessary services.
For disciplinary changes in placement that would exceed 10 consecutive school days, if the behavior that caused the violation is determined to not be a manifestation of their disability, the same disciplinary procedures will be applied to the student with a disability as to the student without a disability.
Change of Placement for Disciplinary Reasons
Placement is very important to a students education. Placement involves many aspects and issues related to the student. The IEP team determines the placement that is most appropriate for the student. Contrary to what some people think, placement is not the room the student is in, it's the program and services most appropriate for the individual student (physical environment is included in this).
A change of placement can occur if the student is removed, by the school, from their educational placement for more than 10 consecutive school days. It can also occur if the school removes the student on several occasions that add up to more than 10 school days (this constitutes a pattern of exclusion from school).
There is a term called "removal" from placement. This means the student is taken out of their educational placement. This could mean the child is sent to the principal's office, out in the hall, sent home, in-school suspension, or suspending. **PLEASE NOTE** If it is written in the IEP, it is not a change or removal of placement (ex. if the IEP states the student can be sent to the hall for disciplinary services, this is NOT a change of placement or a removal).
I mentioned "pattern" earlier. A pattern is a series of times when the student is removed from their educational placement. As a future teacher it is important to note: the length of each removal, the total amount of time the child is removed, how close the removals are to one another, and the reason for the removal. Documentation is important.
Change of placement is when the school proposes to expel the student for 11 days (10 days in not a change of placement). If the student was sent home for 10 days in the past and then is potentially going to be sent home again for a similar behavior, this would be considered a pattern and would be a change of placement.
**PLEASE NOTE** Before the school can change the student's placement, the IEP team must hold a manifestation determination review (is the behavior occurring because of the student's disability).
It was interesting to learn that, if the school removes the student for up to 10 days, the school does not have to provide the student with regular education or special education and related services (unless it would provide those services to a student that does not have a disability). Once the student's placement has changed, the school must provide the necessary services.
What Constitutes a Change of Placement?
Any behavioral issues that disrupt the education of themselves or others, could result in a change of placement.
Violating the school code of conduct can result in a change of placement whether or not the violation occurred because of the student's disability or not. The change of placement can be suspension or expulsion, or even a more limited education environment.
Change of placement is a considered on a case-by-case basis. Education is not an exact science. Students are individual. They learn differently and they react differently. Some circumstances may arise that have never occurred before. This is why there are laws and regulations in place. To make sure that the school is doing their part (IEP, providing a FAPE in the LRE, etc.) and there can be some gauge (previous court cases) to measure the next appropriate action to be taken.
In other words: School authorities may only exercise their discretion on a case-by-case basis to allow removals for unique circumstances IF the other disciplinary procedures have been satisfied.
Does a Suspension (of less than 10 days) Constitute a Change of Placement?
A suspension of less than 10 days does not constitute a change of placement.
If it is 11 days, it does constitute a change of placement. If a pattern can be established (the student is suspended for 10 days and then later, it is proposed they are suspended again for similar behavior), this would constitute a change of placement.
It is recommended that schools take a conservative approach toward suspending students for more than 10 days. The parents and the school, should monitor these students (who are repeatedly suspended). With careful monitoring and collaboration, we can be proactive. There may be a need for a meeting to take place. Perhaps some modifications to the IEP can be made and the issue will be resolved.
This is also an opportunity to discuss the student's current educational plan and see if there is a need for an alternative behavioral intervention plan. **PLEASE NOTE** If the behavior in dangerous, suspension beyond 10 days may be the appropriate consequence.
**IMPORTANT TO NOTE** Students that are suspended for less than 10 days, have the same rights as their peers without disabilities. They can contest the suspension (using the regular education procedures).
**ALSO** A suspension (of 10 days or less) is not considered to be a change in placement however, the school must report the suspension to the parents and the student along with a detailed statement as to why the suspension happened and a notice that they have the right to review the decision.
The matter could go to court.
What About Change of Placement Due to Expulsion?
Again we are reminded that no student with a disability can be expelled for behavior that is a manifestation of their disability. In order for a school to expel a student with a disability, the IEP team must hold a "manifestation determination review (MDR) meeting". This meeting must happen within 10 days of any decision to expel or change the placement of the student.
Since there is a strict 10 day time frame (for the MDR), it is common for schools to suspend the student for 10 days (which is not a change of placement), in order to gather all the members of the IEP team together to discuss the student's situation (including parents).
What if Suspension/Expulsion is Used with a Student with a Disability?
Let's talk about expulsion for a minute. Expulsion is a "lengthy removal from educational opportunity". This "lengthy removal" is no longer permitted for students with disabilities. Removal from special education services, for more than 10 days, violates the student's right to a FAPE. IDEA does not use the term "expulsion", it is called "a change in placement of a child with a disability".
**IMPORTANT NOTE** Student's with disabilities right's are "governed by the 2004 amendments to the IDEA concerning suspension or expulsion of children with special educational needs".
The law states explicitly that "a free appropriate public education (FAPE) must be available to all children with disabilities, including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school". (20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(1)(A)).
There are certain behaviors that may give the school the "right" to change a student's placement to an "interim alternative educational setting" for up to 45 school days. The behaviors that would require this action are: student carries a dangerous weapon to school or school functions, knowingly possesses, uses, sells, or attempts to sell illegal drugs at school, or has inflicted serious bodily injury upon another while at school or at a school function" (other sections in this assignment will talk more about interim alternative educational settings).
**IMPORTANT TO NOTE** For an alternative educational placement for up to 45 days, a FAPE must still be provided.
Long term Suspensions or Expulsions
It may be necessary to impose a long-term suspension or expel a student with a disability. However, this can not be done if the behavior is a manifestation of the student's disability. If it is a manifestation, certain actions are taken (briefly mentioned early in my assignment and deeper explanation in another section of the assignment). If it is not a manifestation, a student can be suspended for longer than 10 days (just like a student without a disability) however, the student must be provided with their education as per their IEP, during their suspension.
**IMPORTANT NOTE** As a future teacher, it is important to let parents know that, if their child is faced with long-term suspension or expulsion, they can consult an expert in special education law to make sure their child's rights are protected.
Oh discipline!! This is not something I am very excited to have to deal with as a future teacher, however, I know I will have to and I know it is important.
It is important that I know the rights of students with disabilities under IDEA as it pertains to discipline. I preach about consistency. Consistency does not mean "fair". There will be constants in my classroom and at school. These involve the rules and code of conduct. To some students, it may not seem fair that a student with a disability is not treated the same way as they are (when it comes to discipline). How do you explain this?
I am still a little unsure about the expulsion aspect of this assignment (yes even after ALL the research I did!!). The way I understand it, students with disabilities cannot be expelled. It is called a change of placement if they are kept out of school for more than 10 days. They still will receive special education services.
At the end of the day, it is my belief, that teachers have a very important job. We are teaching children not only academically, we are also teaching them how to be responsible, kind, capable and productive members of society. The goal is for all students to be successful (whatever that looks like for the individual student) in all aspects of their lives.