Zero tolerance in schools can’t be applied equally

Parent and daughter.jpeg

“I’m going to take a BB gun and shoot you in the head.”

It seems pretty straightforward: A student makes a threat like this at school and zero tolerance steps go into action. The child is suspended, period.

But what if this threat is uttered by a child with autism? Or a child diagnosed with special needs?

“Parents need to fully understand the rights of their child in a situation like this,” says Bettina Davies, an attorney at Cauthorn Nohr & Owen and a network attorney for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. “Zero tolerance simply can’t be applied to every child equally.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Day 11 is important.

Once a student with disabilities has been suspended for 10 or more days in a school year, that student must continue to be provided with a free appropriate public education (FAPE). A manifestation determination must be convened in order to decide whether the student’s behavior was due to the disability and/or whether the Individual Education Plan (IEP) was followed.

There’s a right to continue education.

If a student with a disability is moved to an alternate setting due to discipline issues, that student must be able to continue participating in the general curriculum and progressing towards meeting the goals and objectives  of their IEP.

Act now.

If you have reason to believe your child would benefit from an IEP or 504 plan (an accommodation plan), pursue the necessary steps  now. A retroactive plan  after a child’s behavioral incident is not likely.

“Every child has rights,” says Ms. Davies. “It’s our job to ensure children are treated fairly.”


The CNO Team