Is Your Child Being Punished for Having a Disability?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Sep 30, 2022 | 0 Comments

Parents of children with disabilities spend a lot of time advocating, from IEP and teacher meetings, to simply explaining to other parents that their child interacts with the world a little differently. Truthfully, it can feel exhausting, and rarely does it seem like anyone is in their child's corner with them.

For children with disabilities like ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders, parents can find themselves constantly pushing back on educators who want to punish their child for behaviors that are caused and created by the disability. These punishments often include sending the child home from school early, excluding the child from activities, or sending them away from other students to a secluded spot. For children with disabilities, punishments like these can be demoralizing, humiliating, and frustrating, and for parents it can be heartbreaking to see their child punished for behaviors they can't even control.

New Federal Rules Offer Support

But, thanks to new guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) in July, children with disabilities and their parents just gained powerful support from the government. The guidance sets out the responsibilities primary and secondary schools have to meet the needs of disabled students and avoid the discriminatory use of student discipline. The guidance applies to all public schools and charter schools, as well as to their employees and any contractors, including school police and school safety or resource officers.

Students with disabilities are, statistically, more likely to be suspended or expelled than non-disabled students. According to data from the Department of Education, students with disabilities represent just 13% of total student enrollment, but they represent 23% of expulsions. Under the new guidance, schools must first determine if the student's behavior is related to their disability before disciplining the student.

The guidance says that when the school determines that disruptive behavior is related to the student's disability, school officials should further evaluate the student to see if the student needs additional support or a change in educational setting before disciplining the student. The guidance also prohibits schools from not making reasonable modifications for students with disabilities, from treating a student differently because of their disability, or from using policies that have a discriminatory effect on students with disabilities.

Students with disabilities are also statistically much more likely to be physically restrained or secluded from other students. Data from the 2017-2018 school year found that, though only 13% of students have a disability, 80% of students who experienced physical restraint and 77% of students who experienced seclusion had a disability. The new guidance says that using physical restraint or seclusion on a student could constitute discrimination.

You Do Not Have to Fight Alone

Advocating for your child on your own can be exhausting, especially when the school has a panel of teachers, administrators, and lawyers on their side. If you are the parent of a disabled child and you believe your child is being treated unfairly at school, you need an advocate who will help you understand your rights and who will help you make sure your child gets the support and understanding they deserve.

Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm. We represent students and families nationwide, and we can help you understand your rights. Call 888-535-3686 or contact us online.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients nationwide. Attorney Lento and his team represent students and others in disciplinary cases and various other proceedings at colleges and universities across the United States. Attorney Lento has helped countless students, professors, and others in academia at more than a thousand colleges and universities across the United States, and when necessary, he and his team have sought justice on behalf of clients in courts across the nation. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide, and he can help you or your student address any school-related issue or concern anywhere in the United States.


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