Discipline, Suspension & Expulsion

Introduction to the Law Governing the Discipline of Students with Disabilities

The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 (IDEA) and the 2006 regulations that implement the IDEA govern the discipline of students with disabilities. Schools must follow these laws.

Schools may make unilateral changes in placement:

  • For 10 school days or less for students who violate code of conduct.
  • For 11 or more school days for violations of code of conduct IF NOT a manifestation of disability.
  • For 45 days or less for weapons, drugs or infliction of serious bodily injury.

Services during change of placement:

  • Setting determined by IEP team.
  • Participation in general education curriculum.
  • Progress to meet IEP goals.
  • Behavioral services to prevent recurrence.

Manifestation Determinations

The rules are different depending on whether or not the conduct was a manifestation of the student’s disabilities.

Within 10 school days of any decision to change placement of a child with a disability because of a violation of code of conduct, the local educational agency (LEA), parent and relevant members of the IEP team (determined by parent and LEA) shall review all relevant information in the student’s file, including IEP, teacher observation, and any relevant information provided by the parents to determine if the action or conduct was a manifestation of the student’s disability.

If the LEA, parent and relevant members of the IEP team determine that either reason 1 or 2 below apply, the conduct shall be determined to be a manifestation of the student’s disability.

  1. If the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the student’s disability; or
  2. If the conduct in question a direct result of the LEA’s failure to implement the IEP.

When Conduct is a Manifestation

  1.  A Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) must be conducted,
  2. A Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan (PBIP) must be implemented, and
  3. The Student must return to his/her current placement unless the parent and school district agree otherwise as part of the modification of the PBIP.

When Conduct is Not a Manifestation

  1. School may discipline student in the same manner and for the same duration as a student without disabilities.
  2. Educational and related services must still be provided.
  3. Student is still entitled to a free and appropriate public education.

IAES & Appeals

School personnel may remove a student to an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) for not more than 45 school days without regard to whether the behavior is determined to be a manifestation of the child’s disability, in cases where a student:

  • Carries or possesses a weapon at school or school function.
  • Knowingly possesses or uses illegal drugs or sells at school or school function.
  • Has inflicted serious bodily injury upon another person at school or school function.

Here is a list of the most important rules governing Interim Alternative Education Settings (IAES):

  1. IAESs are determined by the IEP team.
  2. Parents can appeal any decision regarding placement, including a decision to place a student in an IAES.
  3. Parents can also appeal the outcome of manifestation determinations.
  4. LEAs that believe that maintaining the student’s current placement is substantially likely to result in injury to the child or to others may request a hearing.
  5. Students shall remain in the IAES pending the decision of the hearing officer or until the expiration of the permitted time for the placement.
  6. FLDOE or the LEA must arrange for these hearings to be expedited.
  7. Expedited IAES hearings must occur within 20 school days of the date the hearing is requested and must result in a decision within 10 days after the hearing.

Suspensions, Expulsions & the 10-Day Rule


  • Suspension is the temporary cessation of educational services.
  • State law regulates the length of suspensions, reason suspensions may be ordered and procedures schools must follow.

 10-Day Rule

  • All students must meet the requirements of the Student Code of Conduct.
  • Students with disabilities must have their disability considered when implementing the Code of Conduct.
  • Students with disabilities can receive the same Code of Conduct consequences as other students.
    • If under 10 consecutive/cumulative days
  • IDEA and other legal protections become very significant when the 10-Day Rule is triggered
  • If the number of days of suspension reaches 10, it is legally considered a change of placement.
  • When this happens, a variety of steps must take place – Manifestation determination/IEP/FBA/BIP.


  • Expulsion is a complete termination of educational services for a definite period.
  • Generally longer than a suspension.
  • Law requires that greater due process rights be afforded to all students who are at risk for expulsion.
  • A child with a disability can be expelled, but the district must continue to provide services related to his/her IEP (FAPE) in a manner to be determined by the district.


Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and Positive Behavior Intervention Plan (PBIP)

  • Functional Behavior Assessment: A process for identifying relationships between a person’s behavior and aspects of their environment.
  • Positive Behavior Intervention Plan: Strategies for effectively addressing behavioral problems that are proactive, educative, and functional in nature.

 When are FBAs and PBIPs warranted?

  • Pattern of disciplinary removals*
  • Considering a change in placement
  • Intrusive methods to manage behavior of harm to people or property
  • Exclusion from integrated activities
  • Less systematic strategies have failed

 Components of an FBA

  • Strengths of student
  • Reinforcement determination
  • Hypothesis development
  • Function of the behavior
  • Based on data

 Features of a Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan

  • Practical, workable, reasonable
  • Specifics: time, duration, setting, roles
  • Buy-in from persons implementing plan
  • Activities should target student needs identified from FBA
  • Determine what is reinforcing to child
  • Replacement behavior
  • Consistent and reasonable duration for intervention implementations
  • Possible initial escalation of behaviors
  • Evaluate effectiveness of BIP
  • If a student’s IEP or behavior intervention plan addresses a particular behavior, it generally would be inappropriate to utilize some other response, such as suspension, to that behavior.


Florida Department of Education Technical Assistance Papers Home Page

Florida Department of Education Technical Assistance Paper FY: 1999-3 - Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavioral Intervention Plans (PDF, 53KB)

Florida Statutes and State Board of Education Rules Volume 1-B.  6A-6.03312 Discipline Procedures for students with Disabilities, page 376.

Wrightslaw: Behavior Problems & Discipline

Manifestation Determinations – National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities

Manifestation Determination Reviews – US Department of Education Policy Document