You Can’t Discipline Special Education Students

Well, that’s one special education myth that’s not true.  Here’s another:  You should use the exact same disciplinary program with a special education student that you use with any other student.  That one might be true but is certainly not always true.

It’s not surprising that student discipline is a major issue when discussing special education.  Discipline is a hot button for many parents.  They want to be very sure their children are treated fairly when any type of punishment is administered.  Special education students have all the rights of due process that any other student may have, but they are also protected further by their IEP’s.

In school, students are generally expected to follow a set code of conduct.  That conduct is interpreted throughout the school by both teachers and administrators.  In individual classrooms the teacher is responsible for keeping order but has some fairly wide latitude in most schools about what will be allowed and what will not.

Special education students are protected from undeserved punishment by their IEP’s.  The committee that meets to develop each IEP must determine if a student’s disability has more to do with particular types of misbehavior than student choice.  In other words, a typical student who curses aloud in class would be punished for disrupting the class and making a very poor choice in doing so.  But a special education student that has been diagnosed with Tourette syndrome would be doing no more than exhibiting a characteristic of his/her disability.  To punish that person would be like punishing another student whose temperature went up because he had the flu.

Similarly students with AD/HD will call out more often than other students.  They will also wiggle more and get up and move about the class.  These are not behaviors the teacher wants or even ignores, but the key here is rather to teach the students to deal with the characteristics of their disabilities rather than to punish them for those activities.

Most IEP’s include a disciplinary plan when appropriate so that special education students face certain consequences for their inappropriate behavior, just not the same punishments or consequences that a typical student would face by committing the same or similar infractions.

Please understand that many students who are not in special education programs do not easily understand why some classmates are not punished in the same ways for similar inappropriate behavior.  And you can bet that if the children in the classroom don’t understand these differences, their parents certainly won’t understand disciplining different students in different ways.

Special education is surrounded by many myths.  The proper way to discipline students with disabilities has certainly sparked its own myths.  The best we can do is to educate people to the best of our abilities about the way special education works and why it works that way.  We can’t punish students for behavior that they cannot control. It simply wouldn’t be fair, and special education students are protected from such punishment.


Grant Name:   Standard Charitable Foundation Grants

Funded By:  Standard Charitable Foundation

Description:  Areas of funding interest include Community Development, Education Effectiveness, Disability and Health.

Program Areas:  Adult Literacy, After-School, Arts, At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Disabilities, Early Childhood, Family Services, General Education, Health/PE, Homeless, Math, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education.

Recipients:  Public School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  5/1/13

Average Amount:  varies


Availability:  All States

Don Peek – Do You Know Someone with AD/HD?

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to




Do You Know Someone with AD/HD?

About 5% of children in school have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD).  Boys are 3 times as likely to have AD/HD as girls.

Researchers have determined that the probable cause of most AD/HD is the lack of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters.  Since neurotransmitters help the brain control behavior, a shortage of these chemicals can cause a person very specific problems.  These include:  problems paying attention, being very active (hyperactivity), and acting before thinking (impulsivity).

These have been categorized into 3 types of AD/HD:

1)      inattentive type, where a person can’t stay focused on a task or activity,

2)      hyperactive-impulsive type, where the person is very active and acts without thinking,

3)      combined type, where the person is inattentive, impulsive, and too active.

While Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is not specifically listed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as an individual category of disability, it is listed as a possible disability under Other Health Impairment.  Students only become eligible for special education services, however, when their behavior “adversely affects a child’s educational performance.”

If you’ve ever had a child with AD/HD, as a parent or a teacher, you know that behavior can be a challenge at home and at school.  Many AD/HD children have trouble staying in their seats, paying attention to the teacher, and refraining from behavior that puts them at risk of physical injury (climbing up on things, running across streets, etc.)

Inattentive type children typically do not pay close attention to details, can’t stay focused while playing or working, don’t follow through or finish school work or chores, can’t organize tasks, get distracted easily, and lose things such as toys, school work, and books.

Hyperactive-impulsive type children typically fidget and squirm a lot, get out of their chairs, run around or climb constantly, have trouble playing quietly, talk too much and blurt out answers, have trouble taking their turn, interrupt others, and butt in on other children’s games.

These behaviors do not tend to make these children popular.  This leads to problems at home, at school, and with friends.  As a result, many AD/HD children feel anxious, have low self-esteem, and are depressed.  These are not symptoms of AD/HD, but simply show up in many students because of the problems at home and school caused by AD/HD.

If you believe a child has AD/HD, it is important to get him/her diagnosed by a professional as soon as possible.  Medications have been very helpful for some students.  However, please remember that not every child with a behavior problem has AD/HD.  That’s why a professional diagnosis is so important.

Not everyone with AD/HD needs or responds well to medication.  It is important to note that both parents and teachers can help structure an environment which will help children with AD/HD stay more focused and get much more done.  You can start by posting rules, schedules, and assignments.  You can teach students study skills and learning strategies.  You will need to reinforce the things you teach them regularly.  It is important to be clear, consistent, and positive with these children whether at home or at school.

Fortunately, thousands of articles and books have been written on the subject of AD/HD.  Your very best bet is to do as much research as possible on the Internet or at the library.  Help those children with AD/HD to learn and grow.  Most are very capable if you can help them to bring more structure into their lives.  As they grow older, many of their symptoms will disappear or be much less noticeable as they mature and learn to deal with this disability.


Grant Name:   Ross Foundation Educational Grants

Funded By:  The Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation

Description:  Giving on a national basis to advance the moral, mental, and physical well-being of children of all races and creeds; to aid and assist in providing for the basic needs of food, shelter, and education of such children by whatever means and methods necessary or advisable; to prevent by medical research or otherwise the mental and physical handicaps of children. Funding is also available for the research of pediatric diseases.

Program Areas:  Disabilities, Early Childhood, General Education, Health/PE, Special Education

Recipients:  Private School, Faith-based, Other

Proposal Deadline:  None

Average Amount:  $1,000.00 – $15,000.00

Telephone:   585-473-6006



Availability:  All States