Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Schools, IEPs and Police

When a student with ASD has behavior issues, both IDEA and the law enforcement system may come into play.

At Autism Spectrum News, Marcia Eckerd and Andrew Feinstein write:
Honig v. Doe held that a school could not expel or change the placement of a disabled student without parental agreement or a court order. In 1997 Congress added a manifestation determination process to the IDEA. If suspension for longer than 10 days or expulsion were to be considered as a consequence for misbehavior, the child’s IEP team needs to meet to determine whether the behavior was a manifestation of the child’s disability. Even for children not identified as eligible for special education, the school district has to hold such a meeting if it had reason to know that the child might have a disability. The IEP Team (including the parents) must review all relevant information to determine if the conduct was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the child's disability, or if the conduct was the direct result of the school's failure to implement the child’s IEP. If so, the child should not be subject to discipline in the same manner as a non-disabled child. For children on the autism spectrum, the expert opinion of a psychologist or psychiatrist is needed to determine if the behavior was a manifestation of the child’s autism. This is critical for parents to understand: in a manifestation determination, parents need a strong and articulate expert.

By calling the police and referring a child to the juvenile justice system, schools circumvent the manifestation determination requirements. Generally, police, prosecutors and juvenile judges disapprove of these referrals except in the most serious cases of personal injury or property damage. Sometimes, juvenile probation officers are willing to work with the family to press the school to provide needed services for the child, because such services are unavailable to the
court. Parents whose children are arrested need to stress their child’s disability and the obligation of the school to deal with it.