Toolbox Tuesday!! Let’s talk about the word “unilateral.”

In our firm’s Toolbox Training, we focus attention on a 1988 SCOTUS decision in which the Court declared that Congress had intentionally “stripped” school administrators of certain powers.  But not all power. It was the “unilateral” exercise of power that was taken away.  In that same case, the Court gave its approval to the federal regulation that gave “unilateral” power to principals to remove a student from the placement called for by the IEP for up to ten school days in the year.  So it would be accurate to say that principals retained “unilateral” power when dealing with those ten days. In the Toolbox, we call this Tool #7: The FAPE-Free Zone. 

As of 1988, then, school administrators had “unilateral” power to remove students from the IEP placement only for those ten days.  Anything beyond that would require the approval of others.  Things have changed a bit since then.  When Congress reauthorized the law, it decided to restore “unilateral” power to principals in three “special circumstances” cases.  If the offense was based on drugs, weapons, or the infliction of serious bodily injury, the principal could order a student’s immediate removal to an interim, alternative setting for up to 45 school days.  In the Toolbox, we call this Tool #5: Special Circumstances Removal.

Those who have gone through the Toolbox Training understand that principals can unilaterally order a student’s removal by using either of these two “tools.” Any removal that does not involve Tool #5 or Tool #7 requires approval of the ARD Committee, or a judge, or a hearing officer, and will be subject to a “stay put” rule. 

I hope that piques your interest in our Toolbox Training.   Right now I’m doing these trainings by Zoom, but I think we’re getting close to being able to meet in person. Let me know if you are interested.


Tomorrow:  TASB Governance Camp