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Alternative Placement for “Assignment Refusal” – a Helpful Strategy?

03/04/10
by Wrightslaw

What does the law state regarding a student who is in mainstream classes yet refuses to do any assignments? He just doesn’t care.

The staff has made extra effort to “bend over backwards” to provide assistance, extra help, make additional copies of materials lost or discarded by the student. IEP accommodations have been addressed, FBA and BIP have been written, yet have not been successful.

I am a high school special educator. We want to consider an alternative placement in an environment that would help teach the student responsibility, help improve self esteem, and get the student ready for the workplace at another school. The student and parents refuse.

You say the staff have “bent over backwards” to help this student.

Assignment refusal is not a discipline issue. Behavior is communication. What is the student trying to communicate by this behavior?

The Cause of the Problem

Since these “bending over backward” strategies were not successful, the school (or some school staff) propose to remove the child from the current school and and place him in an alternative setting.

Why do you think removing the kid from his current school placement and transferring him to an alternative school will be helpful?

This student has a problem(s) that needs to be solved. You can’t solve his problems until you have info about what’s driving him.

The behavior you describe may be due to many factors.

You can’t develop strategies to deal with a problem until you know what is causing the problem. Has anyone completed a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation of this student? When? What were the findings?

Comprehensive Evaluation

If a comprehensive psycho-educational evaluation has not been completed recently, that’s the first step. Depending on the results of this evaluation, additional testing (personality, neuropsychological) may be needed before the school and parents can develop a plan.

Comprehensive File Review

You may need to do a comprehensive file review, beginning in chronological order. Focus specifically on the psycho-educational test data.

Are the student’s reading, writing, arithmetic, and spelling percentile rank scores gaining ground / improving, or is the child falling further and further behind his peer group? If the scores are getting worse, then expected behavior is usually fight or flight (i.e., withdraw, depression, self medicate via drugs/alcohol).

The law says that a child is to be provided with FAPE, but so often no one takes a look to see if things, over time, are getting better or worse. Almost always, the test data shows that the child is falling further and further behind, thus those behaviors are expected and predictable.

Blaming the kid, parents, or teachers is not useful.  It will not solve the problem and will have a negative impact on the parent-school relationship.

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22 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Wendy 09/24/12 at 3:08 pm

    I hope I don’t sound like a complete fool here, but did anybody ask the child why he wasn’t doing the work? I’m curious what his response would be. I had a lot of trouble getting one of my son’s schools to really see who he was, so I interviewed him. I used questions from Sandra Rief’s How To Reach and Teach Children with ADHD. There’s a learning style inventory in the book. I wrote down his answers unedited. He loved it. It made his personality (a side of him that was unknown to the school) shine through. His answers were creative, funny and helpful. I felt it gave my son a voice. I guess you could also audio record or video tape the interview as well. You, the parent and the school get helpful information and your child gets some attention and his feeling known in a fun unique way.

  • 2 Allison 09/18/12 at 1:22 pm

    My son refused to do homework all through grade school. Bottom line, he was spent by the end of the school day. He was honestly unable to do more after school hours. While it does “look” like a behavior problem and is quite frustrating for us parents there is an underlying cause for the refusal or better put inability.
    Ok my solution (besides going half bonkers all those years) being that our goal was a high school diploma, was to get all diagnostic testing done to see if we were missing some LD or difficulty, make sure I was completely familiar with his diagnosed disorders (Bipolar disorder and ADHD), AND that he went to summer school every year. One other very important help, a class called “study skills” was available. We scheduled it at the end of the school day every year. He did school/homework in this class.

  • 3 Olga 09/18/12 at 11:45 am

    I think the school/teachers should also take a hard look at the content of the assignments: how often are they tedious, mind-numbing busywork that does nothing in terms of learning, and that is not geared toward a student’s abilities nor towards developing those skills.

  • 4 Gina 09/30/10 at 7:13 pm

    part of the issue was that the 3rd grade teacher didn’t want my son in her class (only 1 class per grade–but now she has an extra 5 students in addition to the 20 other raging maniacs). 1st grade was a disaster, 2nd grade was better. But ultimately we accepted an out of district placement (at local district expense) to a self contained class 20 min away.

    My son has NEVER been so happy as he is now. Is it the best class? I don’t know, but it is better than what he had before. Only 5 students. Individualized attention. His IEP actually being followed.

    Since the home school “took back” all his sensory tools (therapeutic listening, seat cushion, etc.), they will have to pay to replace the items upon the new school’s OT orders.

    I did obtain help from an advocate who has been wonderful in battling with the child study team.

  • 5 Jennifer 09/29/10 at 4:24 pm

    Gina- Were you able to keep your child in school? My son’s school is doing the same thing. He has been diagnosed, twice!, with Asperger’s, yet the school does not believe it applies to my child. They say he is emotionally disturbed and want to send him to an alternative school. Before I drop another $4000 on an attorney, wanted to know how your case went.

  • 6 Susie 09/21/10 at 3:35 pm

    Parents have started advocating for their child. The school has brought in the police officer, although no threats or violence has ever happened between the parents and the school. The school has informed the parents that they are on longer allowed on campus and refuse to let them in.
    The child is autistic, which the district is refusing to admit to, although several evaluations state so. The child has walked off campus on several occasions and the school is threatening the parents over it. Can schools refuse to allow parents on the campus their special needs child attends with history of violence?

  • 7 Gina 05/11/10 at 4:20 pm

    For this exact problem, the “school psychologist’ has decided that my son’s passive ‘refusal’ to complete classwork (he has Asperger’s Syndrome) is willful & oppositional defiance. They claim exactly what the original post states. I was blindsided at his “annual review” meeting that “they collectively” have decided that my son requires an out of district placement into a “Behavioral Disturbance” class. A care manger from state children’s behavioral health services stated that he is NOTHING like his other clients that require a BD placement. The “school psychologist” insists that he MUST be emotionally disturbed as the school psychiatrist added “Adjustment Disorder with disturbance of emotion” to his diagnosis list (in addition to Aspergers/PDD NOS).

  • 8 Gina 04/16/10 at 9:59 am

    My son cares. The “school psychologist” is his CST case manager & consistently unilateraly makes up his (most often ineffective) BIPs. She thinks he is attention seeking. Currently his BIP is pimarily punishment. Ex he doesn’t finish his writing journal (a KNOWN source of distress & dysfunction. His problem is both the physical act of writing & difficulty with written expression.) & he’ll have to miss part if recess, stay after school or more until it’s done. Yesterday they held him out of computer class & library time and the work still wasn’t done. He was so stressed through this 1 1/2 hr ordeal that he chewed the erasers off two pencils! He still isn’t done & they wanted him to stay after the next day. He didn’t want to go to school today.
    He has SPD, math LD & anxiety/Aspergers. The only test for writing done was WJIII. Help!!!

  • 9 Laura 04/11/10 at 7:18 pm

    My son is also refusing to complete assignments. I have requested an alternative placement to work on the motivational issues and it was rejected. I have been told that he just needs to “put in more effort.” How exactly is that going to happen? Also, his grades have been inflated by his teachers to reflect what he gets once it eventually is turned in, but his IEP states that he should have regular grading standards (all other students receive failing grades for late assignments). What am I supposed to do? (On a side note, the school also agreed to a 1:1 aide and has avoided my questions on the topic all year. There have been more than 5 safety incidents including them losing him 3 times because he came home. I learned that the 1:1 aide is actually a 1:4 aide. I removed him from school until they comply). HELP!

  • 10 Sharon 03/29/10 at 4:57 pm

    Elizabeth – First of all if your son is on an IEP the school cannot make a change of placement without your consent or his if he is of the age of majority. In our state (Ohio) we can request testing from an outside professional at public expense. What we do is request this in writing and we do not have to give a reason other than we do not agree with the school’s assessment. The school will give us a list of professionals that we can go to. We have NEVER gone to anyone on this list and do not have to. We instead get a referral from our child’s doctor, psychologist or we go to a place like the Cleveland Clinic neurological dept and get an outside assessment from them. The school must consider the results of the assessment.

  • 11 Elizabeth 03/27/10 at 12:39 pm

    I find this entire question absolutely terrifying. My son has refused to do assignments and I’m afraid that the school will try and force him into a self-contained class where he will no longer be eligible to earn a high school diploma, but will instead get a certificate that will not help him to get a job and go into the US armed forces, let alone go to college. (This is New York State). On his last psychoeducational assessment, he was shown to have above average intelligence. If the school wants another one, of course I will comply, but this means time off from school for him and time off from work for him, which I can little afford. Overworked Department of Education personnel can do the testing, but I’m given to understand that we’d be better off going somewhere else, which usually costs hundreds of dollars. This is a tough situation.

  • 12 Linda 03/16/10 at 12:14 am

    Okay. So you do a file review and see that your child is falling behind in scores and behaviors are escalating year after year. What then? The school says they are doing everything they can and time marches on and my son is failing competencies. What is the next step?

  • 13 Steve 03/15/10 at 5:31 am

    Yes! I am sorry the student is having these issues, but at the same time, relieved to see someone else has a kid that does this. My son has Aspergers and has not recieved a FAPE. the school administrations concentrate on getting rid of him (we are on our 3rd school dist.) instead of figuring out how to teach him. One teacher had it right: my son got almost a 98% on his work in science last year – this year he has a 50%. The teacher just whines about how he won’t do his work. When I took a look at what the assignments entailed, I could see that they would be very boring for him as a science buff and a kid with a high I.Q.
    Find a teacher who has had success with the kid and see what he did right and do more of that.

  • 14 Pam Wright 03/12/10 at 11:47 am

    Barbara: All articles on the Wrightslaw site are printer-friendly. We don’t have the same control over articles on this blog because the blog uses software made by WordPress. We are looking for a solution, but haven’t found one yet.

    Workaround: You can easily select the text in a blog post and/or comment, then copy and paste the text into a document. Include the link (URL) so others can read the post.

  • 15 Barbara 03/11/10 at 9:24 pm

    Why do you not have print friendly on the articles I am receiving from you. There is so much infor I do not need and a waste of paper and ink to want to take to school and share with my colleagues? Hopeful. We are having some of the same concerns with unmotivated students that refuse to do work in their mainstreamed classrooms.

  • 16 Rayna 03/11/10 at 2:32 pm

    I’m the mom of a son who’s had an LD/ IEP for 12 years. I’m also a researcher on cultural changes in SpEd. I’m looking for refs on how kids with LD do in mainstream inclusive settings when compared to kids with other diagnoses. And the converse: do kids with the label LD do better in other types of SpEd accommodation: public, private?

    All suggestions gratefully followed. Many thanks, Rayna

  • 17 Mom 03/10/10 at 3:13 pm

    My son is going through something similar. My question is:
    My son attends a charter school in the twin cities. I have heard time after time that they dont have the staff or resources for my son. Even in the situation where he refuses to go to class somedays because he says he doesn’t understand it. Their response is to call me and pick him up and take him home. I’ve responded ” If he refuses to go to class he needs to sit here all day”… Can they come back and state they cant provide resources or staff? Dont they need to follow the Public School guidelines and provide what my son needs?

  • 18 Susan B 03/08/10 at 7:18 pm

    DAWN-You are welome. You can do this. You are headed in the right direction. Make yourself the EXPERT on your son, his disability and the IDEA, No one has more to lose here than you…you are his BEST advocate. Read everything you can get your hands on regarding scientifically research based instruction, the IDEA and your son’s disability. Document back to the school EVERYTHING that is said and done in as business like way as possible, IN WRITING.

    Good Luck!

  • 19 Dawn 03/08/10 at 11:24 am

    SUSAN-thank you! I have been trying, for the past 2 CSE mtgs. to get them to address these issues. Unfortunately, my advocate has not been able to come with to either mtg. I am going to district today for a meeting to ask that very question (scientifically research based). Our IEE states he has a nonverbal learning disorder and math disorder. District says they must observe our son in his present school. I asked for a written report to be sent after observation is complete and they said there won’t be one (???) I then asked for another CSE meeting (waiting to hear). I feel things are a bit “above my head” as we are gravely concerned about these recent evals. I do have the wrightslaw book from Emotions to Advocacy and have used it several times for letter writing, etc. However, I don’t feel we are getting anywhere at this point.

  • 20 Susan B 03/08/10 at 8:18 am

    DAWN-I would ask the school to put into writing that my son does not have to be on grade level because he is passing from grade to grade. IMO, passing from grade to grade means little. I see high school students all the time who are passing from grade to grade who cannot pass the high school exit exam, and/or can’t read. Don’t pass exit exam=Don’t graduate! As a parent I would be concerned that my kid might have “given up” because his disability had never been remediated adequately. A good question to ask: What type of scientifically research based remediation has been used in order to address his deficit areas? Something else that is troublesome to me, there is a huge discrepancy between his performance score and his verbal score, 50 points, I’m no psychologist but to me that seems like it might be statistically significant.

  • 21 Dawn 03/04/10 at 2:31 pm

    Our son is experiencing a somewhat similar situation. We did have an IEE done and the district did a “watered down” eval. Both evals show he has regressed and is falling far behind. He is in 8th grade: reading comprehension 5.9 grade level; math late 3rd-early 4th grade level; verbal score 122 (93rd percentile) and performance score 72 (3rd percentile). Has had 504 since late 4th grade and changed to IEP in 5th. Trying to get him placed in an alternative school that we believe fits his needs. Have had 2 CSE meetings–to no avail. District says he does not need to be at grade level because his report grades are passing. Don’t know what to do next.

  • 22 Debbie 03/04/10 at 1:24 pm

    You say he “doesn’t care”. My experience has been that when a child refuses, despite knowing it will cause him trouble, he does indeed care. However, he has experienced failure so often it is too painful to continue to try. He would rather refuse, and take the situation he knows, while seeming to have some control over the situation.

    The evaluations need to be complete enough to give you answers. I would suspect that remediation was stopped years ago and he does not have the basic skills to do the work. If his skills are at GRADE LEVEL, not just improved over what they used to be, then there is some issue still undiscovered. You will not be successful in helping this child improve until you understand the why.

    Remediation can continue throughout the high school years and be very successful in improving basic skills.