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Special Education and Student Suspensions

Suspensions for New York City Special Education Students

By Lauren I Mechaly, Esq.
Although students with disabilities account for only 18% of New York City students, a recent poll conducted by the New York Civil Liberties Union (“NYCLU”) and Student Safety Coalition concluded that within the last ten years approximately one third of New York City suspensions were handed to special education students (Education Interrupted: The Growing Use of Suspensions in New York City’s Public Schools).  The report suggested that students with disabilities are four times more likely to be suspended than students without disabilities.

At a time when the state government is proposing significant budget cuts in the City’s education department, the NYCLU suggests that instead, Mayor Bloomberg should provide additional resources to schools to address the unique needs of students with disabilities.

Students with disabilities are entitled to certain rights under both federal and state law.  As a parent of a child with a disability, you are aware that students with disabilities tend to exhibit behaviors in the classroom that impede his or her learning.  These behaviors may be exhibited in the home as well, affecting the student’s ability to complete homework assignments or study for exams.  Such behaviors need to be addressed by the Committee on Special Education (“CSE”) and memorialized on the child’s Individualized Education Program (“IEP”).

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education mandate that if a student’s behavior impedes his or her learning, a school must consider positive interventions and supports to address the behaviors.

If a student with a disability is removed from his or her current placement as a result of a suspension, the student is entitled to receive educational services during his or her suspension.  Further, within ten (10) school days of the decision to change the student’s placement because of the violation of the school’s code of conduct, the student’s file must be reviewed to determine whether the conduct was caused by the student’s disability or, in the alternative, was a direct result of the school’s failure to implement the student’s IEP.

If this “manifestation determination” is made, the school must conduct a Functional Behavioral Assessment (“FBA”) in order to address the student’s behavior so that the violation does not recur.  The school team will then develop a Behavioral Intervention Plan (“BIP”) based upon the results of the assessment, and will include the BIP on the student’s IEP.

It is important for parents to be aware of their child’s rights under the law.  If your child exhibits behaviors in the classroom, it is imperative that the behaviors are addressed by the classroom teacher, therapists, related service providers, and the CSE team.  The student’s teachers and providers should be aware of the BIP so that the proper interventions are put in place in the classroom.  If the IEP does not address your child’s behaviors, the IEP should be reviewed and revised to ensure that your child receives appropriate and effective interventions and supports in the classroom.

For more information on this recent study, please visit http://www.nyclu.org/news/analysis-finds-dramatic-spike-nyc-suspensions-black-children-and-students-with-special-needs-mo.