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(8.7) Under what circumstances could my child with a disability be suspended or expelled from school?

(8.7) Under what circumstances could my child with a disability be suspended or expelled from school?

Students with disabilities are subject to the same suspension rules as nondisabled students.  However, before a school district can recommend that a student with a disability be expelled, a “manifestation determination” meeting must be held to discuss whether the student’s behavior was related to his disability or his IEP was implemented. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.530(e).]

If the behavior was related to the student’s disability or his IEP was not implemented, the student cannot be expelled and appropriate services need to be determined and provided to the student.  The determination of placement is an IEP team decision and expulsion from school is a “change of placement”.  A change of placement such as expulsion cannot be made without holding a “manifestation determination” meeting. The IEP team must hold a “manifestation determination” meeting upon a “change of placement.”

A “change of placement” also occurs when the student is suspended for more than 10 consecutive school days or when a student has more than 10 cumulative suspensions that constitute a pattern of removals due to proximity of suspensions and/or similarity of the incidents. [34 C.F.R. Sec. 300.536.] In this situation, the school district must also hold a manifestation determination meeting to determine the student’s educational, behavioral and placement needs and services.  The school district cannot change your child’s placement without your consent, or without a manifestation determination meeting, except for certain serious behaviors. (See Question 11 below.)

State law defers to federal law for most of the rules governing suspension and expulsion of special education students. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 48915.5.] Federal and state law allow for up to 10 consecutive days of suspension of special education students without any requirement of a manifestation determination, but for suspensions in excess of 10 days, there must be a special meeting. [20 U.S.C. Sec. 1415(k)(1)(B).] Principals, therefore, sometimes extend students’ five-day suspensions by an additional five days. A student may be suspended on a first offense only for reasons (1) through (5) in the list in question 2 below, or because his presence causes a danger to persons. [Cal. Ed. Code Sec. 48900.5.]