Change in Placement

When the exclusion of a student with a disability is permanent, for an indefinite period of time, or for more than 10 consecutive school days, OCR generally considers the exclusion to be a significant change in placement that would trigger the requirement for a manifestation determination. Additionally, a series of suspensions within a school year that exceeds 10 cumulative days may create a pattern of exclusions that OCR would consider to constitute a significant change in placement. Whether serial suspensions constitute a change in placement, however, must be determined on a case-by-case basis and by considering factors such as length of each suspension, the proximity of suspensions to one another, and the total amount of time the student is excluded from school.

An in-school suspension (ISS) may constitute a significant change in placement if it results in a removal of the services or educational program that the district must provide to the student with a disability. The critical question is whether the ISS is the educational equivalent of an out-of-school suspension — that is, whether the student is denied educational services during the period of suspension.

The use of ISS is also to be considered when determining whether a significant change in placement has occurred as a result of disciplinary sanctions. When in-school suspensions result in the student’s removal from the educational program and/or there is failure to provide services as specified in a student’s Section 504 plan, then the ISS would be counted in determining whether a significant change in placement has occurred.

Schools seeking to use the ISS exception should become familiar with the following commentary from the U.S. Department of Education in the IDEA regulations of 2006. The commentary explains that three factors are critical should the school seek to use ISS and not count the days toward a pattern of exclusion. The commentary provides that: has been the Department’s long-term policy that an in-school suspension would not be considered a part of the days of suspension addressed in §300.530 as long as the child is afforded the opportunity to continue to appropriately participate in the general curriculum, continue to receive the services specified on the child’s individual educational plan, and continue to participate with nondisabled children to the extent they would have in their current placement (71 Fed. Reg. 46715).

A final note: The exception appears focused on ISS placements made for a few days at a time. It should not be read as a mechanism to justify long-term ISS placement, even if the three requirements are met.

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MYTH: Students covered by Section 504 cannot be expelled.

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