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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

'Challenging' students with disabilities are sent home (but not suspended)

Photo: Shlomaster/Pixabay

Schools aren't supposed to suspend special-needs students if their misbehavior is related to their disability. But some schools use "informal removals" to send challenging students home early or limit their school hours, writes Erica L. Green in the New York Times.

Another tactic is "transfers to nowhere," charged the National Disability Rights Network in a report last year. Students are sent to programs that don't exist, have no seats or won't accept them. Among the cases:

AA is a 10-year-old child who has a diagnosis of autism. He was placed in over 100 restraints at school during his kindergarten and 1st grade years. In the beginning of his 2nd grade year, he was placed on homebound services due to disability related behaviors.  He was not allowed to attend school events or to participate in extracurricular activities

Schools are required to report formal suspensions and expulsions, but not informal removals. That could change, writes Green. "The Education Department warned schools last summer that informal removals — including shortened school days — could violate federal civil rights laws," writes Green. "In October, federal lawmakers called for the department to specifically include informal removals as a type of prohibited discrimination" in revisions of federal disability law.

Many commenters argued that children who have outbursts don't belong in general education classrooms.

Thomas comments:

This is the kind of rhetoric that allows a small minority of students to destroy the educational experience of every other child in their class. Maintaining an orderly classroom where students aren't throwing desks at their teachers isn't an unreasonable ask.

P charges that schools keep students in mainstream classes because it's cheaper, even if inclusion doesn't serve their learning or emotional needs.

I have an autistic son who is also intellectually disabled. He has frequent loud meltdowns that can last up to an hour. He hits himself and bangs his head on his desk. He needs a quiet environment with few transitions. He needs the same teacher all day. His academics are at primary level. Our school district insisted that his high school LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) was gen-ed, without an aide. It took a whole year and thousands of dollars in legal fees to get him assigned to a special public school for children with disabilities. During the time he was in forced inclusion, the poor teachers were beside themselves, calling us to try and figure out how to handle him. It was horrible. He lost a whole year of learning and cried all day every day.

A Little Grumpy is a teacher:

My seventh grade student, Robert, liked to pretend he was a worm and writhe on the floor. . . . Do you want to know how easy it was to teach reading comprehension strategies to 31 twelve-year-olds while their classmate lay next to them on the floor wiggling and wiggling. His parents shouted at every meeting that we were failures and just trying to medicate him. . . . Robert’s legal rights were sacrosanct. . . . I had a lot of vulnerable, lower-income students in that cohort - seventh graders reading on a second grade level. Their right to an education was absolutely secondary to his right to be there in my classroom. Robert was the only legally protected person in that room.

The six-year-old Virginia boy who shot his first-grade teacher is said by his parents' lawyer to have an "acute" but unspecified disability. I think sympathy for children with violent outbursts is very low.

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