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punitive responses for behaviors related to conditions that are listed on IEP’s



I was wondering if you have any information on how to address punitive responses for behaviors related to conditions that are listed on IEP’s. 

My 13-year-old son is AuDHD with generalized anxiety. Some related behaviors to those diagnoses might include shutting down, task avoidance, impulsivity, questioning rules or assignments, or hiding under a table when he was younger as a fight or flight response when he was overwhelmed. All of these behaviors would result in suspensions or punitive actions with a justification that they were ultimately safety issues for the class that override any claims for IEP protections and punitive actions are taken because he violates school policy. 

Suspensions have done nothing to help change his behavior or help him, and have only contributed to additional stress and anxieties. I understand the school is probably frustrated and reacts this way to seem fair to other students or because they have no other options made available to them, but it seems archaic and counterproductive to the ultimate goals to help him. 

I’m wondering if they are technically allowed to do this or if there are other options available under the IEP rules to address how he is handled when he lacks the skills to cope in certain situations. It seems like, even when they are trying to maintain a façade of fairness, he is often treated more punitively than other students are for similar actions because he does it more frequently. I’m so tired of the double standards, and the school’s inability to address these issues more proactively, so I’d love to bring some suggestions to the table at our next IEP meeting. Thank you!

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If a student isn't following school rules and is making a situation unsafe, the school can and should follow their disciple rules and implement consequences.  When the student is exhibiting behaviors that are a manifestation of a disability, That's a bit different.  An FBA might be the appropriate assessment so that the right Behavior Improvement Plan or Positive Behavior Support Plan can be developed.  I'd like to know what his antecedents are so that they can be avoided or modified so that they don't trigger these behaviors.  He can also be taught coping techniques since there might be unknowns that could also be antecedents.

What does the school's BIP or PBSP say should be done when he has these unsafe behaviors?  If math tests are a trigger, he probably should be given them in the resource room with an RBT or behavior specialist there to help him stay calm.  If there is no BIP or PBSP in place, the school is setting him up to be disciplined for things we know are going to happen.  This could be looked at as a denial of FAPE since he is being removed from instruction for things that are known to trigger his disability.  This violates his rights both under special education as well as his civil rights.

I've looked over the research.  Suspension doesn't help teach coping techniques to a student with GAD.  It is archaic and can be counterproductive - especially if you want to avoid school refusal as a future maladaptive behavior to being anxious.

Does the IEP say he has GAD?  What are the specially designed instruction and accommodations in place to help teach your child to be better regulated when he's anxious?  Is the school following his BIP/PBSP?  If the IEP isn't FAPE (and it does sound inappropriate), the school should change it so it can provide access to his education given his GAD.  If this has been going on for a while (which I'm inferring from the limited info in your post), I'd say the IEP should have been changed up a long time ago to better accommodate your child as well as maybe ramping up the instruction on coping techniques.

I like to use diabetes as a model.  A diabetic with low sugar will pass out - which is unsafe for both this student & the people around them.  How do you deal with this?  You allow them to either eat sugary things in the classroom or head to the nurse to check blood sugars and get something sugary to bring up their blood sugar.  You don't suspend them or give them detention for leaving the classroom or for passing out because they didn't feel their sugar level dropping.  Seems like the school is suspending your child because they aren't accessing their tools to help keep their anxiety from getting out of range.  He might also need to be taught to notice when his anxiety is starting to go into a range where he'll not have control of it.

Are you asking for a manifestation hearing when your child is being suspended for a manifestation of their disability?  https://adayinourshoes.com/child-suspended-from-school-iep/  I think you need to start with sending the school a parent concers letter.  Include about the lack of access to his education when he's suspended.  Mention that the IEP doesn't seem to be FAPE because he's not learning coping skills.  Tell them that they haven't come up with a good assessment of his anxiety so the behavior plan hasn't worked.  (I'm thinking you might need an attorney but I feel you need to see how willing the school is to fix things before you make that move.)

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