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Ed. Dept: Schools Must Provide Behavioral Supports to Students Who Need Them

Students with disabilities who are frequently suspended from school may be missing out on the behavior supports they are entitled to, says new guidance released this week from the U.S. Department of Education. 

The "Dear Colleague" letter on the Inclusion of Behavioral Supports in Individualized Education Programs noted that 10 percent of students with disabilities were subject to short-term suspensions during the 2013-14 school year, compared to 5 percent of students without disabilities. Minority students with disabilities are suspended even more often; for example, 19 percent of black students with disabilities faced at least one short-term suspension during the school year. 

(This information comes from the most recent Civil Rights Data Collection, compiled by the Education Department's office for civil rights.) 

In light of those figures, the Education Department says this guidance is meant to help schools keep these students in school, by providing individual and whole-school behavioral supports. The supports might include "instruction and reinforcement of school expectations, violence prevention programs, anger management groups, counseling for mental health issues, life skills training, or social skills instruction," the letter says.

Schools also have to consider that repeatedly suspending a student with a disability may be a denial of that student's right a free, appropriate public education (FAPE), the letter states. For example, if a student with a disability is repeatedly acting out but isn't being re-evaluated by his or her individualized education program team, that may consititute a denial of FAPE.

In addition to the guidance letter, the department also highlighted a number of resources for classroom teachers, schools, and districts on how to create a more supportive school environment.


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