It’s Toolbox Tuesday!! Let’s talk about “unilateral” authority.

The Toolbox Training is a one-day program for campus administrators and special education staff that focuses on disruptive and/or violent students with disabilities. We provide ten “tools” that are available to enable school officials to serve each student appropriately, while maintaining a safe campus.  One of the words we study is “unilateral.”

In the only case about discipline of special ed kids to reach the Supreme Court, (Honig v. Doe)   the Court noted that Congress had intentionally stripped schools of the “unilateral authority” they had been using to exclude students who were disruptive.  So in the Toolbox training, we point out exactly what this means.  There are a few areas where principals retain “unilateral authority,” but many where they do not.

Principals have “unilateral authority” to use Tool #7—the FAPE-Free Zone.  These are the ten days during the school year when students can be suspended out of school, without any educational services.  In Honig v. Doe the Court gave its approval to this.

Any removal of the student that amounts to a “change of placement,” however, is going to require approval of the ARDC. So the principal cannot do this unilaterally.

After the Honig case Congress restored a measure of “unilateral authority” by identifying three “special circumstances” in which principals can order the removal of a student for up to 45 school days. This is not entirely a unilateral power, however.  The principal can remove the student to an IAES (Interim Alternative Educational Setting) but needs the ARDC to determine exactly what that IAES will be.  In Texas, it is usually the DAEP.  Furthermore, the removal of the student due to “special circumstances” must be approved by one of the child’s teachers. So the principal cannot use this authority “unilaterally.”

Perhaps that brief description whets your appetite for more information. Several lawyers in the firm can do the Toolbox Training for you, so if you are interested, just let us know.


Tomorrow: Can the state require all kids to go to a public school?