School Discipline: The Rights of Students With IEPs and 504 Plans

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By Andrew M.I. Lee, J.D.

Some kids have learning and attention issues that cause them to misbehave. If they have an IEP or a 504 plan, what happens if they break a school rule? Can they be disciplined? And if so, how?

School Discipline Basics
All students, including students with IEPs and 504 plans, must follow school rules. State and federal law require public schools to maintain a safe, orderly learning environment. That’s why every public school has a code of conduct with rules of behavior.

The code might include rules like no obscene language, no disrupting classes and no smoking. It may have a dress code, academic rules and attendance requirements. The code should also spell out the consequences for breaking rules. You can find the code of conduct for your child’s school on its website. The school may also send a copy home at the start of the school year, or you can ask the principal for it.

If a student breaks a rule, the school has the authority to discipline her. School discipline actions can range from minor to very serious, and from the traditional to the more progressive.

When it comes to school discipline, all students have some basic rights:

  • Students (and their parents) have the right to know beforehand what the rules are.
  • If a school accuses a student of breaking a rule, the student has a right to challenge the accusation and prove her innocence. This may happen informally at a meeting with the principal, or more formally at a superintendent’s hearing.
  • A school can’t have rules that violate a child’s constitutional rights. For instance, a school can’t discriminate against a child due to race or religion.

Discipline Protections for Kids With IEPs and 504 Plans
In addition to the basic rights all students have with school discipline, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides special protections to students with IEPs. These same rights apply to kids with 504 plans.

Read more. Understood.