First off, don’t think that you’re powerless. Regardless of what the school may tell you, if your son or daughter has an IEP and has been suspended or is facing expulsion, you have a great deal of control over what happens next.
Keep the folllowing things in mind.
1) Suspensions and the 10-day rule: the general rule is that a student on an IEP may not be removed from his or her regular placement for more than 10 days in any given school year without certain protections kicking in. Whenever any student who is removed from a regular placement for at least 10 days – and that could come in the form of in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension or any other removal from the regular classroom – then the school must complete an FBA and BIP. If the removal is going to be for 10 or more consecutive days, then a manifestation determination is going to have to be performed. During a manifestation determination, the school — WITH parental input — must determine whether the behavior leading up to the discipline was the result of the child’s disability and/or the result of the school’s inability to properly implement the IEP.
2) Legal rules governing suspension or expulsion: it is not unusual at all for students on an IEP to face in-school and out-of-school suspension repeatedly. When such removal approaches or is at 10 days total for the school year, then a BIP (behavior intervention plan) and FBA (functional behavior assessment) should be performed. If the removal is for more than 10 consecutive days, then it’s most likely an expulsion, and a manifestation determination must be performed. If the problem behavior is a manifestation of the student’s disability or is due to a failure of the school to implement the IEP, then the student must return to school. If it is not the result of either, then the student may be disciplined in the same manner as any other non-disabled student.
One important way in which treatment of students on a 504 plan differs from those on an IEP is what happens to the student in case of expulsion. A student on an IEP who is expelled must still continue to receive educational services from the district. This is not the case with students who are on a 504 plan, who may be expelled for a behavior that is not a manifestation of their disability and then subsequently be denied education services for the duration of the expulsion.
Just remember that, when it comes to student with disabilities, the law is on your side.