Toolbox Tuesday—more on the Q and A from the feds….

We’ve been working our way through the lengthy Q and A released by the Department of Education regarding the discipline of students with disabilities. Today we look at Section H: Provision of Services During Periods of Removal. 

There are only two questions in this section. The first is about Tool #7: the FAPE Free Zone.  The question is about what services a school owes a student if the student is removed for disciplinary reasons for 10 days or fewer in the school year.  For example: your assistant principal orders a three-day out-of-school suspension.  What services does the district have to provide?

The Q and A tells us that the district may not have to provide any services. It has a duty to provide services “only if it provides services to a child without disabilities who is similarly removed.” The Q and A also tells us that information about this “must be included in the explanation of procedural safeguards it provides to parents.”

That made me curious. Has Texas addressed this in the Notice of Procedural Safeguards?  Yes.  It’s on page 5:

The school district does not provide services to a child with a disability or a child without a disability who has been removed from his or her current placement for 10 school days or less in that school year.

That’s why we call it the FAPE-Free Zone. It’s the only circumstance that relieves a district of the legal duty to serve the student and it cannot exceed 10 school days in the school year.

Of course just because you don’t have to provide services does not mean that you are prohibited from providing services. In fact, the Q and A encourages you to provide services:

Although not required, LEAs are encouraged to provide services during such short-term removals to assist children with disabilities to continue to make progress toward their IEP goals and to prevent them from falling behind.

We need to add one more wrinkle to this discussion based on state law.  Texas does permit a three-day suspension out of school and with no services. However, consider T.E.C. 37.005(e):

A school district shall provide to a student during the period of the student’s suspension under this section, regardless of whether the student is placed in in-school or out-of-school suspension, an alternative means of receiving all course work provided in the classes in the foundation curriculum under Section 28.002(a)(1) that the student misses as a result of the suspension.  The district must provide at least one option for receiving the course work that does not require the use of the Internet.

I highlighted this requirement in a training I did recently for some principals and was greeted with a lot of blank stares. I’m not sure everyone is on top of this. How does your district provide this “alternative means of receiving all course work”?

The rest of Section H in the Q and A is about removals that reach Day 11 and beyond. If there is a short term removal that carries you past 10 days but the removal is not a change of placement, then the services to be provided are decided by “school personnel, in consultation with at least one of the child’s teachers.”  In Toolbox lexicon, that’s Tool #8. 

If the removal is a change of placement, then it’s up to the ARD Committee to decide where and how the student will be served.  In the Toolbox we address this in Tools #5 and #6.

Next Tuesday we’ll move on to Section I in the Q and A—services to kids “not yet determined eligible.”  It’s complicated. Let’s review it next week.


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Tomorrow:  coming attractions!