Discipline and Special Education Students

in trouble cartoon

People have many misconceptions about special education programs and students. There is even a hint of fear in the faces of visitors to schools with active special education programs. People aren’t mean, just ill-informed. It’s true that many special education children need extra discipline to thrive. Structure seems to be so very important to many children. Structure gives kids a sense of security; it’s always good to know what’s expected of you. This is the crux of any classroom management program, carefully defined and communicated expectations.

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. A school with great leadership will have a consistent and fair set of codes of conduct for all children, but special education teachers are brought into the planning of the expectations early in the process.

The committee that meets to develop each IEP must determine if a student’s disability is defined by particular types of misbehavior.  In other words, a typical student who curses aloud in class would be punished for disrupting the class and making poor choices.  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 may call out more often than other students.  They will also wiggle more and get up and move around the class.  These are not behaviors the teacher wants to ignore, but the key is to continually remind students of what appropriate behavior looks like in your school.

Most IEP’s include a discipline plan so that special education students face certain consequences for their inappropriate behavior. Many districts in the country are working on professional development programs with a protocol called RTI (Response to Intervention). It’s a leveled set of guidelines that define how a student will learn and behave. Teachers are being trained to use it to provide additional structure and support in the classroom.

It’s also a way to prevent unnecessary referrals to special education classrooms by teachers who are struggling with classroom management issues. With this program, it is carefully spelled out what is expected, and it provides ways for teachers to intervene on behalf of a student who is taking longer to adapt to the classroom rules than others.

Parents need to understand the programs schools have adopted for classroom management and discipline. This high level of understanding helps them become better partners in the education of the children.

Grant Name:   Standard Charitable Foundation Grants

Funded By:  Standard Charitable Foundation

P: 971.321.3162
F: 971.321.5243

The Standard
Public Affairs P12B
1100 SW 6th Ave
Portland OR 97204

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:  5/1/14

Average Amount:  varies

Website: click here

Availability:  All States

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Time for Reflection

Special Needs Topics with Don PeekThis 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 schoolfundingcenter.com.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s April and with less than two months to go in the school year, it’s time to do a little reflecting. Yes, I know that you have an IEP for every child you teach, and the growth each student has made will be measured in relation to that IEP. However, I want you to think of each student’s growth in a little different way.

The federal government says the average cost of educating a student is around $11,000 per year (this of course varies by state and by individual school district). You, the people in your county and state, and others around the country are paying the taxes that go into that $11,000 per year.  It really doesn’t matter if teachers babysit their students or if they work as hard as possible to educate the students in their classes. The cost is still about $11,000 per year.

What I want you to consider whether you are a teacher, administrator, or a parent is if taxpayers are getting their $11,000 worth for each student for which you are responsible.

What you have to do is think about what each student will know or will be able to do when school ends that he/she did not know or could not do at the beginning of the year. I started looking at each student this way when I was an assistant principal in high school. Taxpayers were paying about $44,000 for the education of each individual student over the course of four years. I have to tell you that most taxpayers would not have been happy with the return on their investment at our school. Most students simply did not know enough or were not able to do enough things differently from the time they entered ninth grade until they graduated to be worth $44,000.

Don’t get me wrong. Educating students is a tough business. When they have disabilities, it makes it doubly tough. I have been a teacher and an administrator responsible for the education of special education students. I am also the grandfather of an autistic student. It simply is not easy to educate most students, and it is even more difficult most of the time when a student has one or more disabilities.

But even with all of that said, you still need to look at every student you teach and decide whether the changes in each student has been worth the $11,000 that someone has paid for that year of education. If you don’t think it is worth the money, you may want to concentrate for the rest of the year on helping each student make changes that would be more in line with the cost of his/her education whether those changes are in the IEP or not.

If you don’t think even a concentrated effort with get the growth you want to see, you might recommend that certain students go to a summer program. Sure, that will increase the cost of educating each student that you recommend, but it may help the student gain some valuable skills.

In the business world, each individual business must make money or eventually go broke. While it’s true that a portion of the education that students pick up each year is hard to measure, the fact sadly remains that many, many schools would go broke with the amount of growth (profit) they show each year. Even in schools that show good average gains or in classrooms that show good average gains, you still have individual students who do not get the growth they should. Those are the ones on which we need to center our attention.

It’s a fact that we spend more on educating students with disabilities than we do on other students. That tends to increase the pressure on teachers and administrators to make sure that a majority of these students are growing at a pace that will at least make them competitive in the work force once they graduate.

Again, I know that educating students with disabilities is a rough task in many cases. That still should never keep us from trying to get every ounce of growth possible out of these students so they can be both productive and competitive for the rest of their lives.

 ~~~~~

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/Environment, Social Studies, Special Education

Recipients:  Public School, Other

Proposal Deadline:  May 1 and October 1

Website: http://www3.standard.com/net/public/!ut/p/c1/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3hHIx8jH2czY0N3d1dLA0-zAE9Tk0ADL1cPM_2CbEdFAFT6ULU!/

Availability:  All States

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

Website:  http://www3.standard.com/net/public/!ut/p/c1/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3hHIx8jH2czY0N3d1dLA0-zAE9Tk0ADL1cPM_2CbEdFAFT6ULU!/

Availability:  All States