In the Toolbox Training we offer a full day on ten “tools” available to school administrators when dealing with students with disabilities who engage in disruptive or violent behavior. Since we are near the end of another year, and graduation is just around the corner, let’s talk about the inevitable “last day of school” prank pulled off by the senior class. What leverage, if any, do you have?
It’s customary for schools to warn the seniors that certain types of misconduct may result in losing the privilege of “walking”—participating in the graduation ceremony. We often refer to participation in extracurricular activities as a privilege; not a right. Certainly that statement applies to the graduation ceremony as well. But that “privilege/right” dichotomy may be legally accurate, but it’s professionally naïve. When grandma has bought a bus ticket to come all the way from Tallahassee to see Bubba “walk” you had better have a good reason for not letting Bubba walk.
Can your rules be applied to the students with disabilities? Of course they can. One of the things we emphasize in the Toolbox is that all students—ALL students—are expected to comply with the rules set out in your Code of Conduct. Of course the law requires you to comply with some specific procedures when you impose the more serious consequences. Some of the consequences set out in your Code of Conduct—such as a long term assignment to DAEP—would be a “change of placement.” If you seek to do that with a student with a disability, you will need to have an ARD Committee meeting to conduct a manifestation determination.
But barring a student from the graduation ceremony is not a “change of placement.” It’s a loss of a privilege. Students with disabilities are subject to the loss of privileges under the same conditions as non-disabled students.
However, you need to keep two things in mind. First, state law mandates that your Code of Conduct must require you to consider the impact of a student’s disability before imposing a suspension on that student. Specifically, the law requires you to consider if the student’s disability “substantially impairs the student’s capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of the student’s conduct.” That requirement applies to suspensions and other more serious disciplinary penalties, but we think you would be wise to keep that in mind before barring a student from the graduation ceremony.
Second, ask yourself: does the student have a behavior plan in place? If so, what does it say? Does it have any bearing on your decision?
Here’s hoping all goes well for you on graduation night!
DAWG BONE: THE CODE OF CONDUCT APPLIES TO ALL, BUT WILL BE ENFORCED CONSISTENT WITH FEDERAL AND STATE LAWS THAT PERTAIN TO STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES.
File this one under: SPECIAL EDUCATION DISCIPLINE
Tomorrow: Beating up the principal might get a teacher fired!