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All schools have discipline policies to address code of conduct violations by students. School administrators may impose a range of disciplinary consequences such as office referrals, in-school restrictions, short- or long-term suspension, or expulsion. Throughout the discipline process, students have due process rights. At WhitbeckBennett, our attorneys are experienced in representing students and their families involved in a disciplinary matters.

Behavioral Intervention Plans

If your child breaks school rules, their educational placement may be changed. However, before the school removes a child from a class, the relevant members of the individualized education program (IEP) team must meet immediately. In this meeting, the team will consider whether your child’s disability caused the misconduct, or whether the misconduct was a direct result of the school’s failure to implement your child’s IEP. If it is determined that the conduct was a manifestation of the child’s disability, the IEP team must conduct a functional behavioral assessment.

A functional behavioral assessment examines the underlying cause or functions of the behavior that interferes with the learning of the child or the learning of his or her peers. The functional behavioral assessment determines whether a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) is needed. A BIP uses positive behavioral interventions and supports to address behaviors that interfere with the learning of the child with the disability, interfere with the learning of others, and/or require disciplinary action.

If a parent disagrees with the IEP team’s behavioral assessment, the parent may request an expedited due process hearing.

Resolving Disputes

In the context of special education, dispute resolution may take many forms, including due process hearings, mediation and state complaint processes. 

A due process hearing is the most frequently used form of special education dispute resolution. A parent may demand a due process hearing if they disagree with the child’s identification, evaluation, or educational placement, or if the parent believes the child has been denied a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). In deciding the dispute, a hearing officer will hear evidence presented by the parent and the school and will then issue a decision. 

Mediation is another form of special education dispute resolution. In this process, a neutral mediator assists both parties in negotiating issues arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEIA). Mediation may be used only if both parties agree to it. 

A written state complaint is a written document used to communicate and the request the investigation of a public agency (e.g., school district) that has not followed the IDEA. This dispute resolution is the only one open to any person or organization. The concluding decision may include child-specific corrective actions or even relate to system-wide issues.

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Loudoun County, VA

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