First, you should know that principals must consider mitigating factors before deciding to suspend a student from school. You can appeal the decision if you feel that the principal has not adequately considered all of the factors.
If a student has special education needs and an individual education plan (IEP), the principal must consider the following:
was the behaviour a manifestation of a disability identified in the student's plan?
was appropriate accommodation provided?
Is there a behaviour plan? Was it being followed?
is suspension likely to aggravate or worsen the student's behaviour or conduct?
does the student have the ability to control their behaviour or understand the possible consequences of their behaviour?
The Ontario Ministry of Education, in accordance with Human Rights Tribunal stresses that suspensions are only appropriate when the student is capable of “learning” from the action. Suspensions are not supported in legislation when a child, as a result of a disability such as a developmental disability or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), cannot understand that their behaviour is “wrong”.
If your child has autism, aggressive or impulsive behaviour may be one of the symptoms that have led to the diagnosis. We can all agree that someone should not be punished for having autism. Due to his disability, he may have little or no control over his behaviour in certain situations. For example: He becomes over-stimulated in physical education class and due to sensory challenges and has a melt down leading to aggressive behaviour.
If you decide to appeal the suspension, you must send written notice of the request for an appeal to the superintendent of the school board within 10 school days of the start of the suspension.
The appeal must be heard within 15 school days of the board receiving the notice of appeal, unless you have agreed to an extension with the school board.
What about informal suspensions or shortened school days?
“Your son is having a bad day and has bitten a classmate. He will have to go home and stay home tomorrow as well.” or
"Because of your son's difficult behaviours, he can't stay at at school for the entire day...he can only attend for half days until his behaviour improves." or
"We don't have enough support staff so your son can only attend school for half days until further notice."
A parent is asked to take their child home or only bring him for a part of the school day because of behaviour that is related to his disability. The practice of shortened school days and “informal exclusions” or “voluntary withdrawals” is common throughout the province. Some parents might believe that they have no choice or that this is the same as a suspension, but unless a child is formally suspended, a principal has no power to send a child home or shorten his school day unless a parent agrees with the decision.
The only time it is appropriate to shorten the school day for a student with a disability is when the student's IEP Team determines a shortened day is required to address the student's unique disability-related needs.
Removal from school or shortened school days is neither a service nor support for students with difficult behaviors.
The school should connect with any professional ABA providers that are providing services to the student so that they can work collaboratively to include behavioural interventions, supports and strategies in the IEP to enable the student to participate in the full school day as soon as possible.
Please refer to the sources listed below for more information about student rights.
Karen Robinson provides special education advocacy training and consulting services to parents and guardians whose children have autism and other developmental disabilities. She develops her clients into informed, proactive advocates for their children's educational needs. They are empowered by current, customized information that enables them to articulate their children's needs to school staff and school board administrators in a way that is both assertive and collaborative.
Contact email@example.com for more information about how Karen can help you advocate for your child. She provides free consulting services to Progressive Steps clients.