At a glance
Public schools can discipline any student who breaks school rules.
However, students with IEPs or 504 plans have extra protections.
Schools must help students when misbehavior is caused by a disability, like a learning or thinking difference.
All students must follow school rules — including students with and . When students break rules, schools have the authority to discipline them. This is because public schools must maintain a safe, orderly learning environment.
When it comes to school discipline, all students have some basic rights:
- They have the right to know beforehand what the rules are.
- They have the right to challenge accusations and prove innocence.
- In some states, students who are suspended have the right to instruction at home.
In addition to these rights, students with IEPs and 504 plans have extra protections. (Sometimes, kids who don’t have these plans are protected too.) These protections aren’t an excuse for breaking rules. They simply help everyone understand the cause of misbehavior. And they require schools to try to reduce misbehavior and prevent it from happening again.
The protections come from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The rules are complicated. They cover two main areas:
- When a child is removed from school, which prevents the child from receiving services. This is called a change in placement.
- When a child’s misbehavior is caused by a disability, like a learning or thinking difference. This is called manifestation.
Change in placement
Drugs, weapons, and serious injury
How to find a school’s code of conduct
Different types of school discipline
If your child is facing school discipline
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About the author
About the author
Andrew M.I. Lee, JD is an editor and attorney who strives to help people understand complex legal, education, and parenting issues.
Robert Tudisco, JD is a practicing attorney in the areas of education law, disability advocacy, and criminal law.