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Can a Child be Punished for Not Meeting IEP Goals?

by Sue Whitney

My son is in 6th grade and has ADHD (combined type). He was assigned 1 hour after school detention for not getting his agenda (homework assignment booklet) signed.One of the short term objective/benchmarks in his IEP is to have his agenda signed by all of the teachers and a parent daily. When this goal was added to his IEP, I had no clue that it would be used in this way.

A goal is written into your child’s IEP because the IEP team:
1. knows it is an important skill, and
2. knows the student cannot accomplish the goal without specialized instruction.

Using a homework assignment booklet is a good strategy for children with ADHD. It is a helpful tool for developing organizational skills. When it is written into the IEP as a goal, it is an instructional objective, not a method of discipline.

If the teacher fails to meet the instructional objective, it makes no sense to punish the child. It is the teacher’s failure. She has not taught your child what he needs to be able to do in order the reach the goal.

Ask this question: Are all students in the school required to have an agenda signed, or only special education students?

Is this a written school policy? Have you seen a copy of the policy? Even if it is not written, it appears to be a school wide practice.

You need to request a meeting of the IEP team to review the IEP. Discuss this goal.

  • Is it appropriate?
  • How is it being implemented?

The intent of the IEP is to design a program of specialized instruction to help your child progress and reach his individualized goals. The team should expect that your child can reasonably achieve his goals with the appropriate instruction, rather than writing into the IEP how he will be “punished” if he does not.

Explain your situation to the school and work with the IEP team to change this practice.

If this doesn’t work, you should contact you local Protection & Advocacy Agency. You can find your local office here:

They may assist you and the parents of the other students if you need to file a civil rights complaint.

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29 Comments on "Can a Child be Punished for Not Meeting IEP Goals?"


My son has a learning disability and ADD. He is in 3rd grade. He doesn’t do work but just sits at his desk. I was told they have tried positive reinforcement but it hasn’t worked so they are going to start giving him referrals. This isn’t appropriate for him. I want to figure out WHY he isn’t completing work. I’m not sure what I can do. How do we get to the root?


My 5 year old grandson has autism. He has been in pre-K for two years and has had IEPs.

The school district refuses to use the PECS system which is utilized here and in other states. How can we get them to comform to the norm? He is not a guinea pig for practices that have not been researched and approved by educational institutions.

Now they say they will not allow him to attend kindergarten next year because he appears “unready for it.” School is almost half over for this year. HELP…suggestions?


I teach a self-contained primary (K-3) class for children with mild to moderate I.D. I work hard to draft IEP goals that reflect the core learning my students need in the next 12 months, and when I present these SUGGESTED goals in an IEP meeting, I initiate thorough discussions among the team members, especially the student’s parents. I also explain that these are goals we aim for, but that not fully meeting them will not result in negatives for the child.**** I don’t know about all states, but in mine, ADD/ADHD by itself can get a student a 504 plan (big whoop, NOT) but not an IEP, because it’s not covered by IDEA as an eligible condition. ****Not all students with IEPs can get ExEd bus transportation; not even all of my kids in my self-contained class qualify for it! Fight for it in IEP meetings, but know it is NOT guaranteed.


I have worked as a non-certified ‘aide’ for special education in California for 12 yrs. The majority of teachers and the administrators that protect them should be fired. Everything is done by the numbers. I.E.P goals are addressed a few weeks before the next I.E.P to review the progress. Demand DAILY accountability and proof. Don’t expect or accept unrealistic goals of your child. If your baby will never know his or her multiplication table but will be able to count the number of eggs left in the refrigerator thank and love him or her. Demand that the aides to your child attend meetings. It will make you happier.


This is for Carolyn;
Your child CANNOT be held back. If he/she fails to progress through the regular educational curriculum with the assistance of the IEP and the school did not address the needs of the student by either modification, accommodation, IEP rewrite, emergency IEP meeting, Parental notification of progress or any one of many reasons the school is held at fault. The child cannot be “held back”. There may be deficiencies in the students ability to perform at grade/age level material but this is why an IEP is needed to modify so that the student may progress and be successful. I have had 18 year old students that have had to progress through third grade material in order to be able to be successful. The reason we do testing is to find the level to start at and then begin the process of learning.