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Can the School Expel My Child with ADHD & LD?  

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Question

"Our son is almost 16 years old and is still in the 8th grade. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5. Recently, he was evaluated by a psychologist who found that he has serious learning disabilities. He takes medication and sees a psychologist."

"The school is aware of his diagnosis but have never offered any help."


"Our son has been suspended several times this year - recently, he was suspended for 10 days. The school sent us a letter that they plan to expel him for the rest of the year."

"What did he do wrong? He did not fight or sell drugs. He went home after school with a friend in a car without getting permission first." 

"We have always supported the school but this isn't right. He is so far behind and feels so hopeless about school - if they expel him, I'm afraid he will drop out."

"
Can the school expel our son for this offense? Are they just trying to get rid of him? What should we do next?"

Answer

You say the school is aware that your son has ADHD and learning disabilities. He has long-standing academic problems. The school has retained him. Despite evidence that he has a disability that is adversely affecting his educational performance, the school has not offered to evaluate him nor have they provided any special education services. 

After suspending him several times, they decided to expel him. His "offense" is not related to weapons or drugs. He isnít a danger to himself or others. You ask, ďCan they do this?Ē

Yes, they can do this if you, the child's parents, donít know his right and your rights or donít know how to assert your rights. If the school has not evaluated your son or found him eligible for special education, itís unlikely that you know these rights.

Here are some general suggestions about how to proceed. 

Get Your Emotions Under Control

Read our article, Emergency! Crisis! Help! In this article, you will learn what to do (and not do) when you are in the middle of a crisis, and how to make short-term and long-term plans.

Consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about special education issues
.

An attorney can help you decide how to proceed, given the law in your state or jurisdiction.

How to Find an Educational Consultant, Advocate, Attorney offers strategies to find an advocate or attorney who represents children with disabilities.

For a list of parent attorneys, visit the Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities for your state and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates website.

Talk to your sonís psychiatrist and psychologist.

To deal with the school, you need help from outside experts who know your son. Because the school retained your son and did not provide him with special education services, he has fallen far behind his peers. To master the necessary skills to succeed in life, he will need intensive educational help. What are his educational needs? How can these needs be met?

Write a letter to the school advising them that you do not agree to the expulsion
.

Use the letter you sent to us as the basis for your letter. Describe the problem and your concerns about your son. In your letter, do not point fingers or blame the school overtly. More advice about letter writing and sample letters.

Learn about your son's and your parental rights and responsibilities.

Here is some general information to help you get started. 

* Read the discipline section of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Discipline is in Section 1415(k).
 
Our book, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, includes the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, all implementing regulations, and decisions issued by the U. S. Supreme Court in special education cases.

* Read Frequently Asked Questions About Discipline from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

* Read the decision in Community School District No. 93 v. John F. - this case has similarities to your son's situation. Decision in PDF. Decision in MS Word

Learn how to be an effective advocate for your son.

Our Advocacy page includes dozens of articles that will help, including:

Advocating for Your Child - Getting Started. Good special education services are intensive and expensive. Resources are limited. If you have a child with special needs, you may wind up battling the school district for the services your child needs. To prevail, you need information, skills, and tools.

From Emotions  to Advocacy - The Parents Journey - Strong emotions cause parents to react, often with damaging results. Don't shoot yourself in the foot. If you are having problems with the school, use your head.


Educate Yourself about Special Education Issues

Subscribe to The Special Ed Advocate newsletter - this free online newsletter will provide you with up-to-date information about advocacy and legal issues.

Explore the topics on Wrightslaw. You will find dozens of articles about parent advocacy, frequently asked questions, cases, and other resources that will help you be a more effective advocate for your child.  

Use the links on the navigation bar on the left side of every page to learn more about different topics that are relevant to your situation - behavior and discipline, eligibility, letter writing and paper trails.
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Revised: 12/12/08


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