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Steven A. Greenburg, Education Law
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Santa Cruz, CA 95060-4567

Phone: 831-458-9900
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Are suspensions unfairly penalizing students with disabilities?

Discipline in schools is a highly divisive and nuanced topic. There are countless styles, strategies and statistics that lead to different conclusions and approaches. And just because one method of discipline works for many students doesn’t mean that it works for every student.

Because of this, it is important for schools to regularly assess their disciplinary policies and make changes when it is of detriment to some or all the students.

For instance, a recent study found that students of color and special education students in many states, including California, are losing a disproportionately high number of days of school due to disciplinary measures including suspensions.

Two of the major findings in the study are as follows:

  • Black 7th and 8th graders in California missed 76 school days for every 100 students; white students missed just 19.
  • Students with special education status lost about 22 more days of school for every 100 students compared to students without disabilities.

In other words, students of color and students with disabilities are losing more instruction time than other students. This only adds to the challenges that these students already face when it comes to getting a quality education.

As such, schools facing this problem would be wise to revisit their policies and consider making changes so that students do not face such troubling (and potentially unlawful) obstacles. This could include reducing suspensions and favoring disciplinary measures that allow students to stay in class.

If you are a parent who feels your child is unfairly penalized or punished for behaviors that are related to a disability, then it can be necessary to take action to protect your child. This could mean seeking a due process hearing or filing a complaint with the administration with the help of legal counsel.

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