Do Children with Disabilities Have Any Special Rights with Regard to Being Disciplined by Schools?

There are a lot of myths out there about the rights of children with special needs when it comes to discipline in the schools. On the one hand, you have many people who think that children with special needs are not subject to discipline in the schools, which is totally untrue. On the other hand, you have people who feel that children with special needs are more subject to discipline. In fact, children with special needs are disciplined at a much higher rate than children without special needs because, as you can imagine, they have a lot more problems in the schools.

They are subject to the student code of conduct just like any other student. However, there are some specialized rights. That has to do with when we are talking about long-term suspension or changes in placements. Children with special needs who are facing a suspension for more than ten days or are facing being transferred to a different type of a program as a disciplinary measure have a right to have a special little hearing first. They call it a meeting, but it’s really a hearing. It’s called a manifestation meeting. In that meeting, the parents are a part of, they have an opportunity to convince the school – there will be members of the child study team there who understand the disability – that this particular action this child is charged with is a result of the disability.

If it’s substantially caused by the disability, the idea is the school is not allowed to punish the child. It doesn’t mean there can’t be some sort of consequence, but it means the matter will be transferred to the child’s study team who will take action based on trying to help the child rather than trying to punish the child. These meetings are sometimes handled in a casual way in that parents don’t understand the serious consequences of what might happen if they do not prevail at this meeting. It’s important that people understand this is a serious meeting. They have to be very prepared and they really need to prevail at this meeting to protect their children.

The law firm of Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller, P.C., is composed of experienced education attorneys throughout the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Please contact the office for a free initial consultation and get any questions answered regarding your specific case.