Understanding the Suspension of Special Needs Students

|April 12, 2024 | education law

Being a parent is a challenging role. For parents of special needs students, it comes with additional layers of care, concern, and sometimes, confusion. One disconcerting situation that may arise is when a special needs child faces suspension from school. This blog post aims to shed light on the suspension process, your rights as a parent, and how to advocate effectively for your child’s educational needs during such trying times.

The Complex Issue of Suspension

Suspension is typically viewed as a disciplinary measure used by schools to address behavioral issues. However, when special needs students are suspended, it raises intricate questions about the adequacy of support and accommodations provided. It’s important to understand the policies and laws that protect students with disabilities, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

These laws ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to education and require schools to provide necessary accommodations. They also include specific provisions about behavioral interventions and disciplinary actions. Therefore, understanding these protections can help you ensure your child is not being unfairly disciplined due to a lack of appropriate support.

Communicating with the School

When facing a suspension, maintain open lines of communication with the school. It’s crucial to:

  • Discuss the circumstances: Gather information on what prompted the suspension. What behavior occurred, and what were the responses by staff?
  • Understand the past interventions: Review what interventions were tried in the past and how effective they were in de-escalating the situation.
  • Analyze the Individual Education Plan (IEP): Make sure that the school has been implementing your child’s IEP correctly, as it may contain strategies to handle such incidents.

Your Rights and Next Steps

Remember that as a parent, you have rights when it comes to your child’s education:

  • Due process: You have the right to be notified and understand the reasons for the suspension. Review the Student Handbook and see what policies your school has for Informal Hearings. Generally, you are allowed to provide witnesses and evidence at the hearing. The District is also permitted to provide witnesses and evidence.
  • Manifestation determination review: By law, the school must conduct this review within 10 days of any decision to change the placement based on a violation of the school code. In Pennsylvania, this is generally viewed as 10 or more consecutive days or 15 non-consecutive days of suspension.
  • Advocate for a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA): If behavioral issues are ongoing, advocate for an FBA to get to the root cause of the behavior and to develop a Positive Behavior Support Plan (PBSP).

Seeking Support

Don’t hesitate to seek additional support:

  • Special Education Advocate: These professionals specialize in these matters and can guide you through the process. Our Education Advocate at Purdy Law Office would be happy to consult with you regarding your child’s situation.
  • Special Needs Attorney: If you need to challenge the school’s decision or feel your child’s rights have been violated, consider consulting a special needs attorney. At Purdy Law Office, we are here to assist you and your child in every step of the process.

The Path Forward

After a suspension, it’s essential to work proactively with the school to avoid future incidents. This might include:

  • Adjusting the IEP or PBSP: Based on new insights gathered, there may be a need to adjust these plans to better support your child.
  • Training and Development: Advocate for training for school staff on managing behaviors specific to your child’s needs.

Above all, remember that suspension is not the end of the road. It can be a complicated experience, fraught with emotions and bureaucracy. However, it’s also an opportunity for renewed dialogue and collaboration with the school to ensure your child receives the support they deserve.


The suspension of special needs students is a delicate topic that requires attention to detail, patience, and strong advocacy. Always consider the actions stemming from the needs of your child. Use the available legal frameworks, communication channels, and external support systems to navigate these waters. The goal is to create a learning environment where your child can thrive without undue punitive measures.

In solidarity with all parents walking this path, remember, you’re not alone. Equip yourself with knowledge, your undoubted love, and the unwavering belief in your child’s potential. With these tools, you can work towards outcomes that protect, uplift, and educate your uniquely wonderful child. Contact Purdy Law Office today at (717) 221-8303.

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