***This post was written by Sarah Perkins, Membership Chair and Website Administrator for WSPA***

We all know that discipline for students on IEPs can become contentious very quickly. It seems to me that usually principals, teachers, SPED staff, and parents all of different opinions and feel passionately about their position. As a school psychologist at exclusively elementary schools, I have had to deal with relatively few out-of-school suspensions and even fewer manifestation determinations. However, at the WSPA conference in the spring of 2016, Stephanie Weaver talked about in-school suspension.

I am chagrined to say that I had never given that much thought to in-school suspension (ISS). If a student with an IEP ended up spending large amounts of time in ISS, I would suggest that we amend his IEP to include a behavior plan and/or scheduled breaks, but I did not think about any other legal implications.

It has been the practice in my schools that you can avoid moving to manifestation determination by placing a student in ISS rather than out-of-school suspension (OSS). Thanks to our conference, I now know that is incorrect. ISS does not count toward the 10 days we tally for manifestation determination meetings only if it meets the following criteria:

  • The child is afford the opportunity to continue to appropriately participate in the general curriculum
  • The child continues to receive the services specified on the child’s IEP
  • The child continues to participate with non-disabled children to the extent they would have in their current placement (71 Federal Register 46715)

Seeing as the entire point of any type of suspension is to remove the student from their peers and their typical day, it seemed clear that my school had to change their practices. In fact, given these criteria, a child who is spending time in the hallway for behavior should have that time counted toward the 10 days too. I have attached document outlining the law in further detail.

When I have brought this topic up to staff and administrators in my schools and district, there has been concern that this will result in the inability to discipline students with IEPs. Of course, these students can still receive ISS but there may have to be more manifestation determinations. There have also been conversations about how we could change ISS to comply with these criteria.

In the comments below, please share how your district handles ISS for students with IEPs. How could the ISS model be changed to comply with the above criteria? What other options for discipline could or should be used instead?

Click here to read more about In-School Suspensions