When a student in special education gets suspended or expelled, the school district must follow Washington State laws and regulations governing discipline for all students. At the same time, however, there are additional special education discipline protections for when school districts remove a student who is eligible, or deemed eligible, for special education from her/his educational placement.
Thus, a student in special education may be involved in two processes simultaneously:
1) General education discipline process, following the process, following the rules and procedures to address whether the student actually engaged in the misconduct, including any decisions about the length and type of removal; and
2) Special education discipline rules and procedures to make decisions about whether a student will be removed from his or her current special education placement, and if so, the services that will be provided to the student.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with both the general education discipline timelines and procedures, and the special education procedures. For more information about general education discipline procedures, visit OSPI’s School Safety Center.
In general, students eligible for special education may not be removed from her or his educational placement for more than 10 school days in a row or be subjected to a series of removals that total more than 10 school days in a year. Removals of 10 days or more are considered to be a change of placement.
When a student is removed from her or his educational placement for more than 10 school days, a manifestation determination meeting must be held within 10 days of the removal. This meeting is to determine whether the student’s behavior was a manifestation of her/his disability. This determination is made by you, the district, and other relevant members of the IEP Team (as decided by you and the district). A manifestation determination meeting is a distinct process only for students in special education that is separate from any other general education disciplinary hearings or procedures.
The exception to the rule, however, is when your student's misbehavior involves Special Circumstances – weapons, illegal drugs, or serious bodily injury. A manifestation determination meeting must still occur, however, your student may be removed for up to 45 school days regardless of whether your student’s behavior was a manifestation of her/his disability.
To understand more about the special education discipline rules and procedures, review the
Special Education Discipline Flowchart and refer to the section on discipline procedures in the Notice of Special Education Procedural Safeguards.
+ What happens if my student’s misconduct is determined to be a manifestation of her/his disability?
If the behavioral violation is determined to be a manifestation of your student’s disability, then the IEP team reviews and revises your student’s Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP), if one is already in place. If no BIP is place, but it is determined by the IEP team to be appropriate to incorporate into your student’s IEP, then a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is conducted to help inform the development of a BIP for your student.
If the district was not implementing your student’s IEP (including a BIP if one is already in place), then the district must take immediate action to correct those deficiencies. After the removal period, your student returns to her/his current placement unless you and the district agree to a different placement or a hearing officer orders a different placement.
+ What happens if the misconduct is determined not to be a manifestation of my student’s disability?
If the behavioral violation is determined not to be a manifestation of your student’s disability, then school personnel may use the same general education discipline procedures, in the same manner, and for the same period of time, as it would for a student who does not receive special education services. On the other hand, if the removal is for more than 10 school days, then the school must still provide special education services to your student. The IEP team decides the appropriate Interim Alternative Educational Setting and special education services your student needs. If appropriate, an FBA may still be conducted and used to develop a BIP for your student’s IEP.
+ Can the school district send my student to another school because of their misconduct?
It depends. If the misconduct was determined to be a manifestation of your student’s disability and does not involve Special Circumstances, then no – the district may not send your student to another school and s/he will return to her/his original placement unless you, the IEP team, and the district agree otherwise.
When your student's misconduct involves Special Circumstances, however, the district may remove your student to an Interim Alternative Educational Setting as determined by the IEP team. This action may occur regardless of whether your student’s behavior was a manifestation of her/his disability for up to 45 school days.
+ What can I do if I disagree with the school district’s decisions?
If you disagree with the reason why your student is being disciplined, you can use the general education procedures for appealing disciplinary decisions made by the school.
If you disagree with the manifestation determination, disagree with decisions about the special education services provided to your student during her/his removal, or disagree with any decision regarding your student’s placement, then you can request an expedited special education due process hearing. For more information on due process hearings, go to the Disagreements & Complaints section and visit the Dispute Resolution page.