It’s Toolbox Tuesday! Tell us about Tool #10!

The Toolbox is a set of 10 “tools” designed to help you meet the needs of students with disabilities who are seriously disruptive, while maintaining a safe and orderly campus at the same time. We have been reviewing the tools over the past 10 Tuesdays, and today we come to the final tool—calling in law enforcement.

It may surprise you to hear that there was, at first, some controversy about this. In the early days of special education law, there were cases in which parents argued that school officials could not refer students to the police after commission of a crime. The argument was that schools brought in law enforcement in an effort to circumvent legal procedures-- trying to change the child’s placement without going through the ARD Committee.

In response, Congress amended the law to explicitly authorize referrals to law enforcement. We now have this language in regulations at 34 CFR 300.535:

Nothing in this part prohibits an agency from reporting a crime committed by a child with a disability to appropriate authorities or prevents State law enforcement and judicial authorities from exercising their responsibilities with regard to the application of Federal and State law to crimes committed by a child with a disability.

The key to Tool #10 is to be evenhanded.  Campus administrators should call in law enforcement in a non-discriminatory manner.  Would you be calling the cops about this incident if it involved a non-disabled student?

There has been much criticism of public schools of late for a perceived over reliance on law enforcement.  Authority to issue tickets and citations for minor offenses has been curtailed.  But no one questions the authority of a principal to contact the police when we have evidence of a serious crime.  That’s that Tool #`10 is about.

In the all-day Toolbox Training, we go over Tool #10 along with all of the others, and provide hypothetical cases for participants to practice with.  If you are interested in a Toolbox training, please let me know, or contact Haley Armitage at the law firm (

I can’t imagine what we will talk about next Tuesday!