Paraeducators and IDEA 2004: Understanding Student Discipline
Why This Topic Is Important to Paraeducators
Many paraeducators work with students with disabilities whose behavior may put themselves, other students, and staff at risk. Myths abound regarding discipline of students with disabilities—the most common being that it is not allowable to discipline these students. For their safety and that of their students, you must be well versed in understanding how students with disabilities may be disciplined under IDEA 2004. The discipline provisions under IDEA 2004 [20 U.S.C. §1415] are as follows:
- Adds new authority for school personnel . School personnel can remove students with disabilities who violate school rules for up to 10 school days without provision of educational services. (This assumes that a nondisabled student would be disciplined in a similar way.) IDEA 2004 allows school personnel to consider, on a case-by-case basis, any unique circumstances when determining whether to order a change in placement for a student with a disability who violates school rules.
- Establishes a new standard for special circumstances . A student with disabilities who carries or possesses weapons or drugs to or at school, on school premises, or at a school function, or who has inflicted bodily injury upon another person while at school, on school premises, or at a school function can be placed by school personnel in an interim alternative educational setting for up to 45 school days. IDEA 2004 allows hearing officers to remove a student for up to 45 school days if school personnel document that maintaining the current placement is substantially likely to result in injury to the child or to others.
- Identifies the placement during appeals . During appeals regarding placement or manifestation determinations, IDEA 2004 requires students to remain in the interim alternative educational setting pending the determination of a hearing officer through an expedited hearing.
How IDEA 2004 Discipline Provisions Affect Paraeducators
IDEA 2004 emphasizes the importance of safe schools in its references to discipline. A decision as to whether a student with disabilities will be disciplined must be documented. You should appreciate the need to document inappropriate behavior in order to support the imposition of discipline on a student with disabilities. Documentation is necessary to protect the student with disabilities, to protect other students, and to protect the paraeducator and other staff.
You may need to advocate for proper understanding and implementation of IDEA 2004 discipline provisions. This may include advocating for training in documenting student behavior and other techniques that support the discipline requirements. What can you do to ensure that discipline incidents are documented appropriately?
The suggested activities that follow are intended to be coordinated with the assistance of your local Association and UniServ staff. Study the activities below and discuss them with your colleagues, local Association leadership, and UniServ staff. With the assistance of your local and/or state Association leaders and staff, develop an action plan to promote an understanding of discipline and appropriate documentation techniques for paraeducators.
Learn how to Document Behavior—Advocacy Activities To Be Coordinated with Local Association Leadership
Learn how to document properly, in an efficient and businesslike manner.
- Ask your school district for training in appropriate documentation techniques.
- Understand the importance of establishing a paper trail that will reflect the behaviors a student has exhibited, which would indicate a concern that the student is likely to cause harm to him or herself or others.
- Request training in areas necessary for your own safety and that of your students, especially if you believe that you need additional training in discipline procedures.
Document student behavior on a regular basis and share this information with the education team.
- File an incident report whenever a student you are working with physically or verbally assaults either you or others.
- Document intervention strategies that are effective in diminishing or eliminating a particular inappropriate student behavior. If it is well documented that a student is able to stop a certain behavior, this information will be important in considering whether the behavior is a manifestation of the student’s disability. Under IDEA 2004, behavior that is not considered a manifestation of the student’s disability can be disciplined using the relevant disciplinary procedures applicable to children without disabilities.
- Document intervention strategies that are ineffective in diminishing or eliminating a particular inappropriate behavior. If a strategy does not appear to be working, review the techniques involved to be sure the strategy is being carried out appropriately. If the IEP team determines that a strategy is being carried out appropriately but it is still ineffective, the team needs to consider alternative approaches to address the behavior.
- Document the results of alternative behavioral intervention strategies that are being used.
- Report all threats.
- Communicate observations and concerns to the other educators working with the student.
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