It’s Toolbox Tuesday! Tell us how the Code of Conduct fits in.

The Toolbox provides school administrators with ten practical “tools” they can use when dealing with students with disabilities who may be particularly disruptive or violent.  The law requires schools to serve all of the kids—including those whose behaviors are challenging.   Moreover, each student should be served in the environment that is “least restrictive” for that student.  At the same time, school officials must maintain safety for all students and staff. It’s tough to fulfill all of these responsibilities at the same time. That’s what the Toolbox is about.

Your Code of Conduct is not one of the ten tools, but it provides an important framework.  The Code of Conduct lays out the expectations that apply to ALL students. The Code of Conduct puts students, and their parents, on notice of the type of behavior that is prohibited, and the consequences that may follow from violating the Code.

All students are subject to the Code of Conduct, including those with disabilities.  There are still some educators, and parents, who seem to think that if a student has an individualized behavior intervention plan (BIP), the student is then no longer expected to comply with the Code. I hear this expressed sometimes: “Oh, he’s not under the Code of Conduct. He has a BIP.”

That’s faulty thinking. A BIP is not a personalized Code of Conduct. A BIP is a tool (Tool #1 in our Toolbox!) that identifies problematic behaviors and then provides for supports, interventions and strategies designed to address those behaviors. The goal of a BIP is to improve the student’s behavior.  So a BIP is about what the school will do FOR a student.  The Code of Conduct tells us what the school will do TO the student.

Students with disabilities have legal protection to ensure that they are not punished for having a disability.  A disciplinary change of placement cannot be based on behavior that is a manifestation of disability. And even with short term consequences, such as a few days in ISS, the campus behavior coordinator is required to consider the impact of a student’s disability on the student’s behavior. So the legal protection is already in place.

We should make sure that students with disabilities understand that they are expected to comply with the Code of Conduct. This is a high expectation, especially for kids whose disabilities directly impact behavior.  But the law requires schools to have high expectations for all kids in all areas--both academic achievement and behavioral progress.