Discipline of Students Whose Eligibility for Special Education is Suspected
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) protections apply to a child who has not yet been found eligible for services under the statute if the district is “deemed to have knowledge” that the child was eligible for such services before the conduct that precipitated the disciplinary action occurred. The IDEA provides that a school district is “deemed to have knowledge” if:
- the child’s parents/guardians had expressed concern in writing to district supervisory or administrative personnel or the child’s teacher that the child needs special education and related services
- the child’s parent/guardian had requested an evaluation of the child to determine eligibility for special education services, or
- the teacher of the child or other school district personnel had expressed specific concerns about a pattern of behavior by the child directly to the district’s director of special education or to other supervisory personnel. However, a school district is not “deemed to have knowledge” if the district evaluated the student and determined that the child was not eligible for special education services or the child’s parent/guardian refused an evaluation of the child or IDEA services.
If the school district has no knowledge that a student is an eligible student under the IDEA before taking disciplinary measures against the student, the student may be disciplined just as any other student may be. If, however, a request is made for an evaluation to determine eligibility while the student is subject to disciplinary measures, the district must conduct the evaluation in an expedited manner. Pending the results of the evaluation, the student must remain in the educational placement determined by the school authorities, which may include suspension or expulsion without services. If the student is determined eligible for an IEP as a result of the evaluation, the school district must provide the student with special education and related services in accordance with the IDEA.
In accordance with student discipline laws and regulations, effective July 1, 2014, enacted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts pursuant to Chapter 222 of the Acts of 2012 (An Act Relative to Student Access to Educational Services and Exclusion from School), the Falmouth Public School District has modified its student discipline procedures and guidelines so as to be in compliance with Chapter 222, M.G.L. c. 71 SS 37H, 37H ½ and 37H ¾ , M.G.L. c. 76, SS 1, 18, 18, and 21, and 603 CMR 53.00 (adopted by Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on April 29, 2014).