A Back-to-School Note for School and District Leaders
What the US Department of Education is Saying:
Kids with Special Needs Are Not Receiving Appropriate Strategies.
September 1, 2016
CEO, Education Modified
As most leaders know, in the case of a special needs child whose behavior impedes the learning of him/herself or others, the IEP team MUST consider the use of positive behavior interventions and supports.
Yet, as highlighted in this letter of guidance from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, many children with IEPs are NOT receiving appropriate behavioral interventions and strategies.
Well, to anyone who has worked in a school or in a classroom, while extremely disheartening and frustrating, this is certainly not a surprise.
What can come as a surprise, especially to those who are on the ground, working hard in schools and classrooms everyday, is that this can be considered a violation of federal law IDEA in providing free and appropriate education designed to meet a child’s unique needs. 34 CFR §§300.17 and 300.320-300.324.
Which is why the U.S. Dept. of Education has released this letter of guidance.
Other tidbits to consider include:
- 10% of all students with disabilities are subject to disciplinary removal
- Students with disabilities are 2x as likely to be suspended
- 19% of black children with disabilities were subject to disciplinary removal
- The impacts of disciplinary removals are detrimental
To save everyone a little heartache, I am going to leave out stats about restraint and seclusion, but you get the idea.
The U.S. Department of Education strongly noted in the letter that they ‘support child and school safety, and do not intend to limit the appropriate use of disciplinary removals, but rather the letter is to encourage school environments that are safe … where educators actively prevent the need for … removals by effectively supporting and responding to behavior. ’ But instead, the letter reminds schools that the ability to remove children does not negate their legal responsibility to consider each child’s unique behavior needs.
So, what should school and district leader’s DO with this letter?
Research shows children are more likely to achieve when schools follow the appropriate processes:
- Directly teach and model predictable and contextually relevant school & classroom routines and expectations.
- Acknowledge children clearly and consistently for displaying positive behaviors.
- Consistently prompt and correct children when behavior does not meet expectations,
- Treat other with respect.
We also recommend the following, particularly for students with special needs:
- Provide ALL teachers a foundation for servicing students with easy access to data-driven strategies and interventions for students– We all know that when a teacher does not know what else to do, they will send the child out of class (and/or situation will escalate.) Give them access to data-driven strategies and interventions for students- INVEST in professional, INVEST in trying new approaches.
2. Consider rolling out pro-active supports for students, such as alternative restorative justice programs, to your current suspension programs. Some have impressive proven results-
- Watch this: Meditation Helps Lower Truancy and Suspensions
- Read this: Restorative Justice: Resources for Schools
Please download this FREE Guide to Positive Behavior Strategies.