The law states explicitly that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) must be available to all children with disabilities. “Including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school”. (20U.S.C. §1412(a)(1)(A).
There are certain behaviors for which a school system can change a student’s placement to an “interim alternative educational setting” for up to 45 school days. For example, if the student carries a dangerous weapon to school or a school function, knowingly possesses, uses, sells, or attempts to sell illegal drugs at school or at a school function, or has inflicted serious bodily injury upon another while at school or at a school function (§1415(k)(1)(G)).
A school system cannot impose a long-term suspension or expel a student with special educational needs if the behavior for which s/he is being disciplined was a “manifestation” of his or her disability. Thus, a “manifestation meeting” must be held. (§1415(k)(4)(B),(C)).
If it is determined that the behavior was a manifestation of the child’s disability then the IEP team must correct the IEP or its implementation and the school cannot legally suspend the student beyond ten days. In addition, the school system must conduct a “functional behavioral assessment” and develop or modify a behavioral intervention plan as necessary to address the behavior for which the student is being disciplined. (§1415(k)(1)(D)).
If the team finds that the behavior is not a manifestation of the child’s disability, the school can suspend longer than ten days as it can a student without a disability, but still must provide ongoing education under his/her IEP during the time of suspension.