The Wrightslaw Way

to Special Education Law and Advocacy

The Wrightslaw Way random header image

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

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.

Print Friendly

Tags:   · · · · 22 Comments

Leave a Reply

22 Comments on "Alternative Placement for “Assignment Refusal” – a Helpful Strategy?"


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.