Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Meeting Students' Special Needs

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Meeting Students' Special Needs

Article excerpt

You may be surprised to hear that students with disabilities are disciplined at a rate more than twice that of their nondisabled classmates, as a recent Education Week analysis shows. A total of "13% of all [K-12] students with disabilities received an out-of-school suspension, compared with 6% of students without disabilities," according to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, which studied the 2011-2012 school year, the last year for which data are available (Blad 2015).

The analysis also found that 18.1% of disabled middle and high school students received out-of-school suspensions, while only 9% of their nondisabled classmates were suspended (Blad 2015).

"Special education students frequently become disengaged in class after repeated suspensions. And that can lead them to drop out before finishing high school," according to the Education Week article (Blad 2015). "In addition, some administrators expel students for behaviors related to their disabilities, or 'counsel them out' rather than addressing those behaviors under processes included in federal civil rights laws."

Disciplining a student for behaviors associated with a physical, intellectual, or emotional condition violates the 40-yearold federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was signed into law by President Gerald Ford under its former title, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.

Even acute health conditions, such as concussions, may call for high school teachers to revise their instruction strategies or provide additional support to meet students' needs. For example, a student with a concussion may need to be excused from school or activities that require concentration, such as quizzes or tests, for weeks. A student with a chronic condition, such as cystic fibrosis, may need to leave the classroom without asking.


The Center for Civil Rights Remedies, part of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, recommends that school leaders "ensure that teachers have the training and support they need to be successful in classroom management, as well as in identifying students who demonstrate a need for additional support by exhibiting behavioral or social/emotional problems" (Losen et al. 2015, p. 34).

Teachers should always check whether their students have individualized education plans (IEPs) or 504 education plans (see "On the web"). …

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