As a general rule, special education students have to be kept in their regular placement as determined in their Individualized Education Program (IEP). However, at times special education students will misbehave and may be disciplined by removal from that regular placement. In fact, research shows that special education students generally tend to get disciplined more often than their general education peers, and also that the discipline for them may often be longer and more severe. Luckily, however, the law does offer protections for special education students, but parents have to use the law properly.
With respect to students on an IEP who are being disciplined, sometimes disagreements will arise between the child's parents, who believe that the problem behavior is a manifestation of the student's disability or a school's failure to properly implement the IEP, and the rest of the IEP team, who believe this not to be the case. If this happens, it is a serious problem, and the school district is going to have to make some very important decisions. Things for the district can turn very messy very quickly - not to mention very expensive - if there is a determined parent, and the district must make a decision as to whether it wants to have this fight or wants to work out some kind of a compromise with the parent.
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.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), if a student who has not been identified as requiring an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is facing removal from the regular educational setting - i.e., expulsion or an extended suspension - but a parent nevertheless believes the student may have a disability, the parent may request a special education evaluation. This is a situation that occasionally will arise.
Before a student on an IEP or a 504 Plan has a change in placement, a manifestation determination meeting normally is held.
Under th Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, students on an IEP must continue to receive education services when they are removed from their regulation education setting. Normally the removal is through suspension or expulsion. While the student is in removal, he or she may be placed into an interim alternative education setting (IAES). But wherever that student is, the IEP still must be followed. This means that, even during removal, a student must continue to receive services while they're out of school.
This article raises questions about 504 plans and/or IEPs: Parent Sues School District Over Service Dog For Son With Cerebral Palsy. In this case, a parent of a child with a disability is suing the school district because the district isn't allowing his child to bring in his service dog. I have yet to see anything like this in the Denver area, but it wouldn't necessarily surprise me. Many people may look at a story like this and think it's ridiculous, but it actually raises some important questions.