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Request Services Early to Minimize Serious School Discipline

Posted September 8, 2023
12:20 pm

By Russell A. Hauser Jr.

Recognizing the early signs that a student may need additional support in school is one of the most important ways to ensure success. Parents and guardians should pay attention to warning signs because they may suggest that a student would benefit from a special education evaluation or other accommodations. For example, a student who is often sent home from school or otherwise disciplined for behavior problems, or who is regularly suspended or receives detentions, might benefit from behavior interventions and preventative steps.

Additional reasons to think about early interventions include poor attendance and new medical diagnoses. Even health conditions that do not directly impact learning and behavior might affect a student at school if they experience stigma, stress, or if their treatment impacts engagement at school.

Schools must only provide support and accommodations to students when the school knows about the problem. If a student has a new medical diagnosis that can impact their education, it is critical to update their school with the information as soon as possible. This way, schools will consider the student’s health when conducting special education evaluations or eligibility for accommodations.

If a student struggles with behavior issues in school, then parents and guardians should consider requesting a special education evaluation through the child’s school. Put the request in an email to the principal or another administrator. A special education evaluation can result in the creation of an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan to provide support and accommodations for a student aimed at helping them learn to manage behaviors in school. IEPs and 504 Plans also provide additional protections for students in cases of school discipline, meaning schools must consider a child’s disability before expelling a student or suspending them for more than 10 days in a single school year.

Schools can also provide additional support for students even if they do not have special education services or 504 Plans. For example, schools can implement attendance intervention plans, regular check-ins, and behavior interventions for students to help them succeed. Schools can also conduct Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) to watch and collect information on behaviors. This type of assessment may lead to a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) that can provide even more support for behavior issues.

Regardless of your student’s eligibility for special education services, it is important to be proactive with their school and share information about any learning and behavior challenges. The school should then explore all options for supporting the student and avoiding serious discipline.

This article was published in Legal Aid's newsletter, "The Alert" Volume 39, Issue 2, in September 2023. See full issue at this link: “The Alert”- Volume 39, Issue 2 – Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

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