Do children with disabilities have any special rights with regard to being disciplined by school?

  • While there is some confusion surrounding this issue, schools do have the right to discipline special needs children, but there are some specialized rights of these children that parents need to be aware of.
  • Special needs children are subject to the school’s code of conduct like anyone else; however, if their problematic behavior is a direct result of their disability, then their specialized rights come into play, and the school is not allowed to punish the child.
  • When special needs children face a suspension longer than 10 days, or are being transferred to a different program as a disciplinary measure, they have a right to a hearing, called a “manifestation meeting.” Parents and the child study team should attend, and they have the opportunity to discuss the behavior and determine whether it is due to the child’s disability.
  • At times, schools tend to downplay the significance of this hearing, and may refer to it as simply a “meeting.” Parents need to understand that this hearing meeting is of grave importance to their child, and prepare for it properly.