Toolbox Tuesday!! A Tool #3 Case

Our firm’s Toolbox Training offers ten “tools” that are designed to help school administrators comply with the law, serve students appropriately, and maintain safety and order. Tool #3 comes up often in court cases, like the one from North Carolina that is today’s focus.  Tool #3 is an Educational Change of Placement Without Parent Agreement.  When the school uses Tool #3 due to behavioral disruptions, it will probably have to defend its BIP. That’s what happened here. 

The parents argued that the BIP was inappropriate because the student’s behavioral issues continued even after the BIP was implemented. On top of that, the school eventually moved the student to a more restrictive environment (MRE) to better manage the student’s behavior.    That’s Tool #3. 

The court noted that the parents’ argument “lacks legal support.”  BIPs are not judged by their effectiveness.  Instead, the standard for a BIP is that it be:

reasonably tailored to meet the needs of the student while being appropriately ambitious in light of the student’s circumstances.  It is not whether the BIP ultimately is successful in positively changing the student’s behavior.

Don’t take that to mean that if a student’s BIP is doing no good you can just shrug your shoulders.  If the BIP is not working, the school has the moral and legal obligation to call attention to the problem and address it.   That might involve calling for a change of placement to an MRE—a more restrictive setting where behavior can be addressed in a more robust way.  That’s Tool #3.

Let’s think about this a bit.  Making a change of placement to an MRE over parental objection should never be undertaken lightly.   To justify such a move the school has to be prepared to show that 1) the current situation is not working; 2) it’s not due to a lack of effort by the school; and 3) the placement in the MRE will be beneficial for the student.  

Think of the implications of those three factors for your BIP.  The fact is that a proposed change of placement to an MRE, if based on behavior, should only be done when the current BIP is not working. Think of it this way:

Student A is regularly disrupting class.  You have not implemented a BIP.  Don’t call for a change of placement until you do!

Student B is regularly disrupting class.  You have a BIP which seems to be producing a positive effect.  Keep working on it!

Student C is regularly disrupting class despite the fact that you have faithfully implemented  a BIP for a long enough period of time that we should be seeing better progress.  Student C is a candidate for Tool #3. 

It’s Bouabid v. Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools BOE, decided by the federal court for the Western District of North Carolina on December 10, 2021.  It’s published in Special Ed Connection at 80 IDELR 44.


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Tomorrow: From the ARD Room to the End Zone….