Does the IDEA Allow for Violent Special Education Students to Be Expelled?

Violent special education students can be expelled.
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According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, each child with a disability is entitled to the least restrictive learning environment. Under the act, students with special needs are afforded some protections and safeguards, but a violent student with special needs can be expelled. School officials must find the best balance between the rights of the student with special needs and the safety of students and educators on campus.

1 Safety of All Students

Not only must school officials be mindful of least restrictive environment, they must convince the parents that alternative placement is best for the child, because IDEA mandates that the child’s parents have the right to be part of placement decisions. At this point, a district trying to walk the fine line between least restrictive environment and campus safety is open to suit and the expenses a lawsuit entails. Unless the student is an imminent threat to other people on campus, he can remain in the school and attend all of his regular classes until the legal matter is settled.

2 Due Process

All public school students have the right to due process when the school proposes suspension, expulsion or alternative placement due to a behavioral problem. A student who has breached the code of conduct in such a manner that removal from the campus appears as a viable suggestion is first called into the office so she can provide her side of the story. This procedure meets the requirements of student notification of charges and the right to be heard and offer defense.

3 Symptom of Student’s Disability

IDEA requires the district to hold a meeting within ten days of the offending behavior to determine if a student’s misbehavior is related to his disability. If it is, the district may need to adopt or change a Behavior Intervention Plan in order to prevent future instances. If the behavior is not related to the disability, the district has more freedom to suspend or expel.

4 Possible Placements

Placement decisions become exponentially more difficult when the well-being of other students may be at risk. An alternative educational center is a common option. These campuses may have smaller class sizes and rigid routines. Such placements are often considered for students who bring weapons to campus. School districts may also offer homebound schooling, but the difference in the time spent with a teacher is a justifiable concern for many parents.

Tracy Spencer has served as a teacher since 1988. She has taught secondary English, speech and theater, as well as various college-level writing courses. Spencer holds a Ph.D. in special education, focusing her studies on Asperger's syndrome and high-functioning autism.