School can be difficult for anyone, but especially for students with disabilities. A disability can make it difficult to study or concentrate. Schools that bring campus resource officers have higher rates of discipline and arrests, and students with disabilities suffer disproportionately.
According to a New York times investigation, many US public schools are finding ways to circumvent federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Students with disabilities are suspended or expelled at different rates compared to other. The above laws provide additional protections to ensure that an already vulnerable subset of students can still receive an education.
According to guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education in July, “it would violate Section 504 to respond to a student’s disabil-based on behavior by shortening the length of the student’s school day, thereby reducing minutes or the hours the student is in the educational environment” without considering whether “additional or different services are required.” But according to timesmany public schools do just that: Termed informal removal, schools simply exclude the child from the class. Unlike suspensions or expulsions, removals are not tracked.
In one example, Dakotah LaVigne struggles with developmental delays resulting from a genetic disorder. Despite showing early promise, he began exhibiting disruptive behavior in second grade. In response, the school began sending him to a “safe room” away from his peers for hours at a time. Until high school, he attended classes for only one hour a day, and his mother routinely had to pick him up early. Dakotah again missed a full day of school between second grade and age 15, when his mother took him away.
LaVigne was eventually able to transfer to a school in another district, which has been significant so far. But for most parents, that’s not an option. Parents can sometimes change schools or school districts upon request, but this depends on the state they live in and sometimes school district approval may be required. The most common parental options are to live with an inferior public education or to homeschool their children, which is not feasible without a stay-at-home parent. Meanwhile, under many school choice systems, parents are free to send their children to another school that might better meet their family’s needs.
The times the story says, “Federal funding to help schools cover the extra costs of special education has always fallen short of the goals in the law, leaving many without the resources they say they need.” One simple solution would be to allow these students to opt out of the system that serves them so poorly.