Suspending a student because of behavior related to their disability is illegal. Despite this fact suspension is still the go-to response for many schools and school districts. School districts have been penalized for disproportionately suspending students with disabilities and thus violating their rights. If your school/school district is known for routinely suspending students with disabilities over behavior it is up to parents and guardians to hold them accountable for these illegal actions. If students with disabilities are routinely suspended over behavior it means that schools have failed, and failed spectacularly, at meeting their legal and moral obligations to students.
So how do we help our students experiencing behavior challenges at school? Any student with behavior challenges at school is due a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA). FBAs are a part of federal and state education regulations (see resource list below). The purpose of a FBA is to identify behaviors that pose a challenge to a student’s learning, identify what in the student’s learning environment precedes or triggers the behaviors, and what follows from the behaviors. FBA can also identify behaviors that help support a student in their learning environment.
Parents and guardians can request a FBA at any time and must give their written consent for the school to perform one. It’s best to make the request for a FBA in writing and verbally so that there are no misunderstandings. Regulations vary as to how long a school can take to respond to a written request. In any case, it is in the best interest of the school and the student to perform a FBA. There are several resources available online for parents/guardians and educators to ensure that everyone is informed about the FBA process and to help make it fruitful for all involved.
Following a FBA school staff are required to develop a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) based on the data collected during the FBA. Parents/guardians are entitled to a copy of the completed FBA. They are also entitled to take part in developing the BIP along with school staff and the student. Before any plan can be implemented parents/guardians must give written consent.
The purpose of the BIP is to help the student and school staff build a healthy working relationship to minimize behaviors that interfere with the student’s learning. A good BIP will also encourage those behaviors that help a student be more comfortable in the school setting. The behaviors targeted should be those of the student and the school staff. Regular data collection and review are also parts of a good BIP. This allows everyone involved to assess the effectiveness of the BIP as well as the progress of the student and staff.
Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) Resources*
Functional Behavior Assessment
Functional Assessment: What it is and how it works
Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA)
Functional Behavioral Assessments and Positive Behavior Interventions: What parents need to know
IDEA 2004: Functional Behavioral Assessment--Fact Sheet
Functional Behavioral Assessments: What, why, when, where and who?
Functional Behavioral Assessments (New York State)
Functional Behavioral Assessments: Legal requirements and challenges
Case Law for Functional Behavior Assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans: An empirical analysis
FBA/BIP Case Law Update
*Inclusion in this list should not be construed as an endorsement of any service, product, or any other information offered at the provided links.