Friday, January 23, 2015

Does It Really Matter If Students Can't Be Expelled Or Suspended For Willful Defiance Or Disruption?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Recently, the suspension and expulsion codes of California were altered to take "willfully defied" and "disrupted" out of the mix as bases for expulsion (any grade) and for suspension through third grade.  Per the pre-2015 codes, these could be suspendable or expellable offenses.  Does this change really matter?

Since starting as an attorney in the education law field, I have addressed many school expulsions.  Almost all expulsions I have seen have included California Education Code §48900(k) [disruption/defiance] which I call the "catch-all" section. This section has "applied" (per school authorities only) to personnel having to call a kid out of class and talk to the child on a situation they caused, watching a fight, or any "waste" of school staff time.  Although frequently used, and very upsetting to parents looking at this section on an expulsion form, I have rarely seen this section used solely and by itself to expel a student.  Generally, this is a secondary basis for expulsion which accompanies another big offense such as fighting, drugs, alcohol, harassment, bullying or otherwise.  This section does not usually stand on its own for expulsion.  So, removing this code as a basis for expulsion changes almost nothing.

However, for suspension, as this section no longer can be used to suspend students in third grade or lower, the change could be much more meaningful.  This removal will affect the students who may have issues in the classroom with leaving their seats, with blurting out, with arguing briefly, with getting used to authority figures bossing them around.  I have seen kindergartners suspended multiple times with section 48900(k) as a basis.  Multiple suspensions for defiance/disruption of young children is very difficult for them and their parents to process.  And, shouldn't the school know how to handle young kids other than kicking them out of school? This will help many parents of young students who would have been suspended before and now will have to be handled in a nicer way.  

So, even if it may not cut into the expulsion traffic much at school, this change will force schools to try other solutions, such as finding out what the child did not understand that made them bored or disinterested, solving the problem causing them to vacate their seat, giving them a "helper" job so they can move around the class more, providing reward programs, and otherwise-- all of which are usually better than kicking them home to watch TV and to feel like they are "bad."  

The Education Code moves and changes yearly, and sometimes small subtle changes occur.  This is one of those times.  When applied, these changes will help the youngest students who may be just learning how to "make it" in the classroom, so they can be ready for the higher grades and will be able to stick it out when things really get tough!

Best,
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Email: help@edlaw4students.com


Michelle Ball
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How To Consent To Some, But Not All, Of An IEP Document

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

With special education, the magic document is the Individualized Education Program document, simply called the "IEP."  [The IEP document is different from the IEP meeting, which is also often called the "IEP."]  This is a multi-page document which outlines many important items for the child, including his or her placement and services.  As such, this is a very key item!  Often parents and schools disagree on some services and agree on others, but the IEP is presented as an all or nothing document.  How do parents partially consent to an IEP?  

So many interesting things happen at IEP meetings to parents.  One of these is the far-too-common situation where the IEP coordinator tells the parents that they must sign the IEP that day, period.  The parents, despite disagreement with some services in the IEP, sign under duress, agreeing to things they don't want for their child.  Why should parents have to do this?  What is a parent to do?

First, as a general rule, the IEP document should never be signed at or right after the IEP meeting unless there is absolute certainty that the document is perfect through and through. As parents are not involved in writing the actual IEP document and don't see it until the meeting is over, how can they know the document's contents?  Often the IEP does not contain all items discussed and something important may be missing.  Regardless, once the document is signed, altering it can be difficult. Another IEP meeting may even have to be convened (in 30 days) before a school will add items, even items clearly discussed and agreed to at the meeting.

What should parents do instead of signing at the IEP?  Ask for a copy for review. They can then take it home and ensure the document is accurate.  They may also find errors and omissions, even whole misstatements which need to be addressed. Sometimes parents find that only the school staff statements are in the notes, but no parental comments.  Any significant omissions should be corrected, via the school special education coordinator, prior to signing.

It seems a simple matter to take the IEP home, but I have actually met parents whose schools refused them a copy to take home.  This is a big no-no and is completely inappropriate.  This is a strong arm tactic which breaches the parents' rights.  However, it happens.  Schools may also state that parents cannot have a copy until they sign, to try to get a signature.  Don't fall for it!  A copy should be provided to the parents with or without signature.  There is no harm in not signing the IEP for a few days, or even never signing it.  If the IEP remains unsigned, the old IEP stays in place.

When they bring the IEP home, parents should make a list of what they agree with and what they won't consent to.  They can turn this into an attachment (labelled as such ) to the IEP.  Then, when they review the signature page, parents may check the box near their signature which states something like: "I agree to this IEP except for ____________."  The blank space should include words referencing the attachment, such as "see attached."  

If parents provide a specific attachment with what they don't consent to, the school should not implement those items/changes.  

Parents should understand their rights, know how they will proceed, and plan how to handle any anticipated objections.  This preparation should ensure that parents don't have to consent to items they don't like simply to get the ones they do.

Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Email: help@edlaw4students.com
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]


Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.