Schools move too quickly to suspend or expel students with disabilities, rather than take measures to avoid such situations before they arise, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Now, new guidance from the department emphasizes the requirement that schools provide behavioral supports for students with disabilities.
It’s a measure officials hope can reduce suspension and expulsion.
During the 2013-14 school year, schools suspended or expelled one in 10 children with disabilities, with children of color with disabilities facing higher rates of removal. Schools removed almost one in five black children with disabilities during that time.
“All students, including those with disabilities, should have the supports and equitable educational opportunities they need to be successful in school,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John King, in a statement. “It’s our duty as parents and educators to ensure that children who show up at school to learn get the maximum out of their educational experience.”
The education department sent guidance from director of the Office of Special Education Programs Ruth Ryder to all public schools this week. The letter said schools are required to provide positive behavioral supports to students with disabilities.
The idea behind positive behavioral support is simple.
Instead of using discipline, schools should have strategies in place that teach and reward positive student behavior. The purpose is to establish a climate in which appropriate behavior is the norm before the need for discipline arises.
For students with disabilities, positive behavioral support should take their disabilities and individual education plans into account.
“Incidents of child misbehavior and classroom disruptions, as well as violations of a code of student conduct, may indicate that the child’s IEP needs to include appropriate behavioral supports,” Ryder wrote. “This is especially true when a pattern of misbehavior is apparent or can be reasonably anticipated based on the child’s present levels of performance and needs.”
Current law allows educators to remove students with disabilities from their classrooms if the student violates a code of conduct.
The guidance from the department is part of a recent campaign that urges schools to rethink their use of discipline.