It’s Toolbox Tuesday!! Our special education director told me there were “mandatory” BIPs and “discretionary” BIPs. Really? What’s this all about?

Tool #1 in The Toolbox is a BIP—a Behavior Intervention Plan.  We call it your most important tool, in part because if it works, you can put the rest of the Toolbox away.  A BIP is the only tool in the Toolbox that is designed to improve the student’s behavior.

The law does not use the terms “mandatory” and “discretionary” with regard to BIPs, but we  know where your director got that terminology, and we think it makes sense.  The law requires a BIP in some cases; and leaves it to the discretion of the ARDC in others. Thus: mandatory, discretionary.

A BIP is mandatory under IDEA only when 1) the student violates the Code of Conduct in a way that would call for a change of placement; and 2) the ARDC determines that the student’s behavior was a manifestation of disability.  For example, a student with autism physically assaults another student.  This is a violation of the Code of Conduct that would normally result in a change of placement to the DAEP. But the ARDC determines that the assault was directly caused by the student’s disability.   IDEA regulations say that in a case like that, the ARDC must either develop a BIP for the student, or review and revise an already existing BIP.  This is mandatory.

In all other cases, BIPs are discretionary.  ARDCs should consider developing a BIP for students “whose behavior impedes the child’s learning or that of others.”  34 CFR 300.324(a)(2)(i). This is one of the “special factors” that ARDCs are required to consider in connection with each IEP. So it should be on your agenda for consideration at each annual ARDC meeting.  Ask the team: does this child’s behavior impede his/her learning? Or that of others?  If the ARDC says “yes” then the team must “consider the use of positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies, to address that behavior.” Notice that it is mandatory that you ask the question: does behavior impede learning? But even when the answer is “yes,” it is not mandatory that you develop a BIP.  It’s discretionary.

Either way—a mandatory or discretionary BIP—Texas requires that the BIP be included in the student’s IEP:

The committee [ARDC] may determine that a behavior improvement plan or a behavioral intervention plan is appropriate for a student for whom the committee has developed an individualized education program.  If the committee makes that determination, the behavior improvement plan or behavioral intervention plan shall be included as part of the student’s individualized education program and provided to each teacher with responsibility for educating the student.  T.E.C. 29.005(g), emphasis added.

So that’s a quick reminder about some of the features of Tool #1—a BIP.  The Toolbox is a one day training program for school administrators and special education staff, providing 10 tools designed to enable you to maintain safety, while serving each student appropriately and in the least restrictive environment. Interested in a Toolbox training?  Contact me ( or Haley Armitage (