In-School Suspension and IDEA Law

Federal Law Limits Suspensions, So Does In-School Suspension Count?

Schoolboy struggling in educational exam

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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act places some restrictions on how many times a student can be suspended before a school is required to hold an IEP team meeting. The intention is to make sure that children who may have learning or behavior issues are not repeatedly punished rather than get the supports they need. If your child is suspended for 10 cumulative school days in a year, IDEA requires there to be a meeting of her IEP team to perform specific tasks. They must review the IEP, determine that it's complete, and decide on an education situation that is more appropriate for her needs.

Some parents or caregivers may wonder about in-school suspension (ISS). Do days your child spends in in-school suspension count toward the 10-day limit? As with most special-education issues, the answer is a definite maybe. Generally, schools must ensure that students in in-school suspension must continue to receive general education instruction that they would receive were they not in the suspension. They must also receive special education services included on their IEPs.

If schools ensure that those services are provided in the in-school suspension environment and that the environment is comparable to facilities used by other students, the schools will have met their obligations under the law, and the 10 days do not count toward the 10-day rule. Otherwise, if services are not provided, the suspension days do count toward the 10-day rule.

When Is In-School Suspension Inappropriate?

Even if a school is acting within the limits of the law and providing services and access to education while your child is in an in-school suspension, there are still grounds for parents to advocate for an IEP meeting. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides for access to a free and appropriate education. It is rarely appropriate for a child to be suspended for more than 10 cumulative days in the school year. These children may face social stigma and esteem issues when separated from their peers in a penal environment.

Unless and until an in-school suspension can be carried out in a way that is positive for the student, it's likely that the suspension will foster negative feelings about school and lead to isolating behavior and even school refusal.

In situations such as this, parents do need to be advocates for their children. The best hope for your child is to convene her IEP team and examine where exactly her education plan is failing her. Some children who are "regulars" in ISS may be calling out for smaller classrooms and individual attention. If this is not an option at your child's school, that IEP meeting can be a crucial step in finding her a more suitable educational environment

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  1. U.S. Department of Education. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): About IDEA.