special education, disabilities


In 1975, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Since 1975, Congress has amended the statute several times. One of those amendments, enacted in 1990, gave the law a new name: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). The law, as initially enacted and amended, was silent on the subject of discipline. In 1997, Congress passed the most comprehensive amendments to the IDEA to date. The amendments included provisions on the discipline of students with disabilities. Many of those provisions simply codified existing case law; others, however, helped clarify formerly opaque areas. This article will analyze the requirements for disciplining a student with disabilities. It begins with a historical overview of the case law prior to the 1997 amendments to the IDEA. This review will help the reader understand why many of IDEA’s current disciplinary provisions developed. Next, the article will review the specific requirements of the 1997 amendments and post-amendment case law. The article concludes with some practical recommendations for educators.

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