DRTx Leads Coalition to Reduce Suspension of Special Education Students in 30 Districts

Posted on

August 7, 2012

Dustin Rynders, Supervising Attorney

AUSTIN—Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) is leading a coalition to demand that the 30 Texas school districts that disproportionately subject special education students to out of school suspension (OSS) change their policies and adopt research-based positive behavior supports.

Children at Risk, Texas Appleseed, The National Center for Youth Law and Thurgood Marshall School of Law’s Earl Carl Institute have joined DRTx to release a report showing that in the 2010-2011 school year, special education students in Texas were subjected to OSS at almost double the rate of all students. The report also finds that 30 school districts use OSS for special education students at two to three times the Texas average.

“These districts rely on out of school suspension instead of positive behavior supports and interventions at a great cost to students and tax payers,” said Dustin Rynders, Supervising Attorney at DRTx, the legal protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas.

The coalition sent its report to the superintendent, school board members and attorney for each district. Rynders explained, “We want to help school districts that still rely on failed discipline policies, by letting them see how they compare to other districts, where they can find research about out of school suspension, and how they can achieve better results in improving student behavior.”

DRTx plans parent trainings in these districts throughout the state during the next school year. Rynders said, “While we educate school district leaders, we also have to educate parents about their rights and how to advocate for improved educational services from these districts. Most parents understand that rewarding students who misbehave with repeated vacations from school is unlikely to improve their behavior. Many parents do not know they can use special education law to advocate for improved behavior assessment and planning.”

“The districts on this list may be violating federal special education laws of many eligible special education students. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act holds schools districts responsible for providing individualized positive behavior supports to improve student behavior and produce meaningful educational progress. Schools districts that rely heavily on out of school suspension have likely failed to obtain adequate behavioral assessment, create effective behavioral intervention plans, and train staff on how to manage challenging behaviors,” explains Rynders.

Parents of special education students suspended in these districts are encouraged to call DRTx at 1-800-252-9108 for assistance advocating for improved behavior support services from these districts.

Rynders said, “Districts that overly-rely on out of school suspension forego additional attendance-based funding, risk litigation from parents of special education students, and cheat students out of instructional time they desperately need. Hopefully this report will start a conversation in each district on the use of out of school suspension and how to better address student misbehavior.”

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Disability Rights Texas is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. Our mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society. For more information about the scope of our services, visit www.DisabilityRightsTx.org.