The Toolbox is a set of 10 “tools” available to school administrators in dealing with students with disabilities who engage in inappropriate and/or disruptive behavior.  Last week we looked at Tool #2—a change of placement with parental agreement. Tool #3 is the companion to that one—this is another educational change of placement, but this time, it is done without parental agreement.

Tool #3 is used when the student’s behavior is a manifestation of his or her disability. Consider, for example, a student with autism who is served in the general, mainstream classroom.  The teacher reports that the student’s behavior is impeding the learning of the student and of others in the class. The behaviors are directly caused by the student’s disability, but that does not make them any less disruptive.  What to do?

The first thing to do is to come up with ways to better support the teacher and the students in that class.  Are there supplementary aids and services that could be employed effectively?  Is the behavior plan working? If not, what can we do to improve it?  Should we consult with a new behavior specialist?  Are there evaluative steps we should take?  What do the parents suggest?

We should try all of that before thinking about a change of placement. After all, we are expected to serve the student in the least restrictive environment.

But sometimes schools try all of those things, and see little progress. There comes a time when you may find it appropriate to recommend a change of placement.  Tool #3 is an “educational” change of placement. That’s to distinguish it from Tool #6, which is a disciplinary change of placement. You would use Tool #6 to change placement based on behavior that is not a manifestation of disability. But if the behavior is a manifestation, a disciplinary removal would be inappropriate. You can, however, recommend a change to a more restrictive environment for educational reasons.

Tool #3 anticipates parental disagreement, and so the school officials should talk to the lawyers first.  Have we done all that we can do to serve the student appropriately in the LRE?  Are we unified in our view that a change is appropriate? Do we have a good alternative placement to propose?  All of those issues need to be addressed.

This Tool is the ARD Committee’s Tool, as changes in placement can only be proposed and effected at an ARD meeting. But the ARD that uses Tool #3 needs strong administrative leadership and sound legal advice.

If you are interested in a Toolbox training, contact me at or Haley Armitage at  The Toolbox training is a full day, aimed at campus administrators and special education staff, with a clear explanation of all 10 tools and some hypotheticals to practice on. We’d love to hear from you!