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Child is Disrupting My Class – What Can I Do?

by Wrightslaw

I am a general education teacher. One of my students, who has an IEP, interrupts class several times a day.  It is not uncommon for him to blurt out on-  and off-topic comments, or start singing, or get up and leave the room.

I have been told that there is nothing the school can do about his behavior because the law is absolute. The district says 80% of our special education students need to be in general education classes 80% of the time.  Is there a law that protects my general education students?  Their education is being negatively impacted on a daily basis.

The law does not require that any percent of children be educated in general ed classes any percent of the time. If the district is using a formula (80%), they do not understand the “least restrictive environment” preference in the IDEA, which says,

“To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities … are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular education environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability … is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” 20 U.S.C. 1412(5)(A)

Courts have held that educating a disabled child in general education (LRE), while preferable, is secondary to ensuring that the child receives a free, appropriate public education.

In writing the IDEA, Congress knew that some children have behavior problems and may be disruptive. If a child’s behavior prevents him or other children from learning, the IEP team should do a Functional Behavioral Assessment. As the general ed teacher, you can and should request a Functional Behavioral Assessment.

After this assessment is completed, the child’s team should meet to develop positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) and other strategies to change the child’s behavior. As the general education teacher, you know the behavior that needs to be addressed. You should be part of the team that develops positive behavioral interventions and supports.

We discuss these issues – children with behavior problems and other special factors – in  Wrightslaw: All About IEPs. (Chapter 7)

This article about Functional Behavior Assessments will help you understand what needs to be done:

Check the info on OSEP National Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support at

You’ll see that you have a state coordinator who is responsible for providing technical support and answering questions about how to implement PBIS. Contact your state coordinator for assistance.

Review this short article about behavior issues and other special factors in the IEP:

If you need additional help, review the articles on our Behavior & Discipline page at

Good luck!

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37 Comments on "Child is Disrupting My Class – What Can I Do?"


My son is almost 8 and has an OHI (Other Heath Impaired) IEP. Due to this, he is sometimes disruptive in gen ed classes. After a lame attempt at resource help, the school moved him to a new school in the district into an ed/bd class where his behavior worsened due to the age group of the kids in his class. The District my son is in is awful and does not do enough to help keep students in gen eds.


when I was in elementary school I would cry, sometimes it was because i didn’t understand the work but most of the time it was because i was being bullied from my classmates. I was kicked out from my class, I send most of my school hours outside, because of this i was behind my classes with reading and math. I was put into ED classes and until high school, i was told i was placed in the wrong classes. now I am working to be a ed teacher and change this. there are so many children like me


This is a very complicated problem. I work as a speech language pathologies at an elementary school in Florida. I believe children with behavioral problems do NOT belong in gen ed. There are children with low IQ and severe Autism to name a few that cry out, yell dis robe, hit other students and teachers and throw things that should not be in gen ed. These students take a significant amount of time away from the class by distracting the teacher trying to manage the behavior. Some low functioning students without extreme behaviors can add positively to a gen ed class. I do not believe that seriously and consistently disruptive children should be in gen ed classes. It does not help them or the gen ed students. Behavior plans do not help all students. There has to be a way to teach all students for sure but the very disruptive either low or high iQ should not be mainstreamed until behaviors are properly controlled.


I understand that some parents who have students diagnosed as having a LD, or an ED , want their child in a reg Ed setting. As a reg ED teacher, this is a very difficult situation. The special needs child as well as the reg Ed students are cheated. Special Ed students deserve to be in a smaller setting. I have seen way too many times how these students are just miserable. Most of them realize that they are not academically or emotionally inept like their peers–this frustrates them and its so embarrassing to them. Something needs to be done because It is killing the American Classroom, not to mention the educator.


Our answer or societies answer to most problems is to swing the pendulmn as far to the other side as possible. NCLB was put into place to fix a wrong. Special Needs students deserved access to the same academic rigor as their peers. That is true of those who’s needs are for the most part physical. Those students who have learning disabilities and behavior disorders require greater support. That support cannot be expected to happen in a gen ed classroom. I am a teacher in a district high school behvior support program. This has been a contained classroom for disruptive students. The past couple of years they have worked to move our kids into gen ed. classes. This is a nightmare for our teachers and limits my ability to work with them on positive behavior strategies. Write your senator and congress, this cannot continue.


I have Autism and Complex PTSD from being abused psychology by emotionally disturbed students. I don’t understand why students who behave like horror film villains are allowed in public schools. I as is typical for PTSD survivors blame myself for not yelling, screaming more when these students abused me. Instead I was punished for trying to run away from them in terror.

I ended up gaining validation for what I went through being wrong from horror films. I lived through a life that is the type horror films depict. Students finding me, scaring me to tears, again again and again. I finally resorted to self-harm and mental dissociation. Why do children have less protection than adults from violent abusers than adults?


You don’t get Autism from being abused. Open up a book once in a while and educate yourself.


Autistic 7th grade student is making many disturbing sexual remarks to the girls. The girls and the boys feel very uncomfortable
with his behavior. He was sent to my class after 2 months being in a restricted environment with other Autistic students. This boy has many advocates but what about my regular students who need to learn in a safe environment where they won’t feel harassed.

I need you input regarding this situation.


What is the aggressive out of control child learning in the classrooms described in these postings? Not very much I suspect. In the pre-school, elementary years, these children should be in an environment with lower student/ teacher/ paraprofessional ratio. Once kids get past the elementary school age if they have not learned to sit and not be disruptive, violent or aggressive, they need to continue in that type of environment. By middle, and high school the child is too big, too strong to restrain safely. We have a H.S. student who is so violent we have to remove the class to another room when he acts up. All they are learning in this class is that the school district has let them down and that the law can be an excuse to do nothing. Not all students benefit from mainstreaming. Parents know their child. Choose an appropriate setting.


My kid is becoming special needs from being around special needs kids. The teacher as 2 special needs kids that I know of… my kid average is now the Horse Whisperer…while teacher works on coming Johnny down my kid as to calm down the other out of control kid. My kid comes home and treats his kid brother the same way the 2 needs kids treat him and the rest of the class. Teacher acts like it’s normal and principal says I’ll talk to the kids. Ugh? If they need medicine give it to them… if they don’t know right from wrong they need not be in the room. The woman who said her kid has to sit across from the kid that sings??? I feel for you…how about seat my kid at your desk teacher — that way she doesn’t have to be a dog whisper – your kid is probably good – they put a good one with a bad one HOT and COLD and hope for luke warm.

Sped Man

This is the new reality in Chicago until a BD or ED child kills a Gen Ed student. Right now self contained classrooms are being eliminated throughout the CPS public schools. ED (emotionally disturbed) as well as BD (behavioral disorder) are being dumped in Gen Ed. This is not to mention the students who are LD (learning disabed) which are recognized. The Gen Ed teachers are being loaded up with IEPs. The IEP will state that the Gen Ed teacher modify the lessons in science or social studies. What is happening is that the students are being sent to the computers when the teacher teaches science or social studies. That is how their needs are being met. How are they getting away with it is a mystery to some. They looked at what the definition of least restrictive environment and eliminated a few of the words.


I am a special education teacher in a general education classroom. I have two disruptive and emotionally disturbed children in my room who frequently have “meltdowns” and yell, hit others, destroy property, sing loudly, and run out of the room. I taught my other students to sit quietly, read and ignore their behavior. One of the students with the emotional disturbance runs around the room and takes the other children’s books and destroys them. He also kicks the students in line and tries to slap them. Some of my students are frequently absent due to this child. If I were six years old I would not want to come to school to put up with this either. The ED rooms are full at our school so this apparently is the new “normal.”


As a general educator I am saddened by nearly every comment on this site. Clearly no 2 situations are ever the same. I have had many students in my class with a very wide variety of abilities, and most have done very well within their capabilities. However, there are students who just need considerably more support. Laws, guidelines, budgets and administrative red tape do obstruct our path! I’m speaking mostly to the extreme behavioral students who impact the learning of the other 95% of the students on a daily basis. My only advice: work together! As a united team you will get so much further than simply railing against teachers, administrators, parents, or other individuals.


What can be done to protect children who are in a classroom with a violent student. When their educational oppoprtuntiy is being impacted by a child who scream obscentities, hits and kicks students and teachers, throws furniture, is there nothing the parents of the other children in the classroom can do about this one child who is stealing the instuctional time from their children?


This comment addresses my understanding that IDEA means “all” children receive a fair and equal education. PLEASE remember the word “ALL,” meaning that this includes typically developing children also. Three of my own children have varying degrees of LD along with other comorbidities, and throughout their school years I have heard various “suggestions” from educators about “what to do” with my children, some of whom would say that my child could “move” about the room to complete his/her class work to which I would say. One of the rules of society is to learn to wait our turn, and children who are not able to do this in an inclusive classroom can have provided for them, “a least restrictive environment.” I for one choose to have my children learn to understand & live by societal rules, as not all people will be as accommodating.

Ms. Bean

The inclusion of behaviorally disruptive special education students in the regular education classroom has, is, and continues to destroy classrooms, destroys the percentage of active instruction occuring, destroys the opportunity of regular education students to receive and engage in an environment conducive to learning. Special education is virtually non-existent. The regular education instructor without voice is being dumped on with CD, EBD, ODD, DD, ADHD, ADD; while the regular education student suffers through the day with the negative effects of these students in the class daily with all their legal rights. This doesn’t begin to address the cost of these students; professional psychological staff on-site and in the budget of schools while the art, music, gym, theatre, computer technology and sports become a past thought.


My daughter, who is occasionally quite disruptive herself, has been seated in a grouping with a little boy who handles stress balls and talks to himself continually. He is facing her, so this is not only distracting, it interferes with her ability to hear her teacher. When she asks him to stop, she is chastised…so she has to just sit there and not hear. I can understand the desire to integrate special needs students into the classroom…but not at the expense of the other children’s education. While I want my daughter to be kind and accepting of all people, I don’t want her to have to forego her education because she’s accomodating a special needs child.

ed mom 11

My 11yr old daughter has been in counciling and om medications since she was 5. I have been through hell and back with the school trying to get her put in a class that she can feel comfortable learning in and I hear, “she isn’t bad enough “. What does your child have to be like to get in a class to learn? She has never had good grades or even passes her ISTEP tests but yet she has never been held back a grade either, I hear, ” if we hold her back she is more likely to drop out when she gets older.” Well I believe she is more likely to drop out later because she has no idea what she is doing in school because the teachers don’t want to deal with her and they pass her on to the next teacher. My point is, as parents of “regular kids ” you must feel so bad for yourselves that we parents of the disabled kids have our hands and feet tied.

ed mom 11

I believe that a lot of the parents and educators are being very unrealistic about what they want or expect from our special needs children. If teachers would remember what they were taught in psych class they would remember that everyone has a different personality and different defense mechanism for every problem they are faced with. You can’t expect a child with a mental disorder to behave perfectly just like we don’t expect your child without a disability to behave perfectly. Disabled children need the protection of his or her parents because as I have read here today there are more bullies than we thought, so it’s safe to say that if this was a classroom you yourselves would be the “problem children “.


I think some of you are been unfair. The law says your children have to go to school. Parents have no choice sometimes in there child been in a regular class. I personaly feel like hey this is my child his needs are my concern not the other 20 kids i know that sounds mean and i am sorry but truth be told the school system is to cheap to pay for the kind of teachers theses kids need and alot are over the top mean so i am going to keep my opinion and worry about my own childs education and parents if u dont like it tell the school system to get off there butts and provide the kids the right kind of educational needs in the first place until them no one and i mean no will mistreat my child


Your bold to say anything about trying to have a normal – meaning a quiet well diciplined, forcused class, like what I had when I was a kid. I personally think that it’s important to have a smooth, calm day in the classroom for the teacher and students so that everyone can get the maximum learning. I’m old school and I sympathize with what teachers are forced to contend with on a daily basis. It’s unreasonalble expectations from the parents of autistic children, to think that all is normal in the classroom and it dosn’t affect other children because — your right, it does. My child comes home after school and tells me who kept screemining, who threw a chair, who attacked him, who was rolling around on the floor doing a hissy fit, who ran around with their pants down. Sympathetic? People let’s get real! How this affecting their education


As science teacher, emotionally disturbed, disruptive children have no business in a regular ed classroom. I have easily dealt with learning disabilities, modifying assignments, modifying tests and finding easier ways to explain the subject matter. What we can’t deal with are the mentally disturbed students. No regular ed student should ever have to put up with their problems. In our system, they are eventually sent to an alternative school. This gives the rest of the class their right to an education.


This is in response to Shanda’s comment. I am a speech therapist in a large district in north Texas. I deal with special ed. students all day with disabilities ranging from simple articulation to extreme emotional disturbance and autism. The majority of them do just fine in the general ed. classroom. There are those whose behavior is so severe and disruptive that on some occasions the other students were removed from the room for their own safety. I agree with you that everyone deserves an education but not at the expense of everybody else. I have seen children as well as teachers(one of whom was knocked unconscious) injured by these students and only by shear luck was a lawsuit not filed. So much class time is lost dealing with these behaviors. We bend over backwards for these special ed. kids at the expense of the others.


I have a kindergartner in the fall who I want in a regular class 75% of his day. He has behavioral problems which are better now that he has meds and will require a para however he is academically strong and I feel he can do it and not disrupt the class with the right supports. They can’t learn if no one teaches them. Typical kids are no better than anyone else. It’s like discriminating black vs white. It is NOT right. The school is to educate ALL not just the regular. You don’t like it put your kid in private school they are selective like you.


My question back to you is this- Does your child’s disruptive behavior management take priority over 25 other kid’s right to learn? Kids will be kids and have their moments, those are typical and I would not expect those kids to be excluded in Gen Ed. However, when a child is displaying behavior that is detrimental to the class/teacher and is provided concessions that my non-disruptive non special needs kid would NOT be entitled – you are basically saying your child has more and different rights than mine and the other 25+ kids in a classroom… so it goes back to your discrimination comment – who is really being discriminated against – my kid doesn’t get special treatment because she isn’t labeled!


It is not that your student does not deserve an education but if the special needs student disrupts the learning of any student special needs or not they should not put them in a gen Ed class for learning purposeses or safety of other student. If he can be in the room without disrupting learning then that is ok. Butt when a teacher has to spend most of the day dealing with bad behavior it hurts all student learning.


My son has a mild learning disability but he is functional except when students who have major learning disabilities disrupt the class. He is in 4th grade and since kindergarten, he has encountered 3 special needs students who have side-tracked his education as well as others in the class. In kindergarten, a young boy with cerebral palsy created such a disturbance that 10 out of 22 kids had to go to remedial reading by second grade. In second grade, while my son was in remedial reading trying to catch up, another special needs student targeted him and other students for bullying. Now in 4th grade, a child who has IEP protection jumped on my son’s back in class to take away a pencil he wanted. His “shadow” had stepped away. I agree everyone deserves an education, just not at the expense of everyone else in the class.



I worked in a room as a para with such students who are disruptive. The para, or you, should have a behavior plan to address disruptive behavior. I agree–sorry if this offends some parents. I have a child in special education. It is very disruptive in a classroom with such a child. We have taken such kids out of the classrooms to give them breaks, modified work in the classroom,etc. I have sat in a classroom where I collected data on a student who had verbal outburst about every few minutes. The students became very fearful and cried. That data was enough for the school to better service the child. It is unfair to teachers to have such students in the class without behavior plans. Some teachers cannot complain and no one wants to go the parents as some parents will explode and cry foul. I feel your pain.


What do you do when you are the special education teacher and a student with very severe disabilities is placed in your room (because there is no other classroom for him). His outbursts, constant noise making, and trying to run about the room and throw things disrupts the learning of the other students in life skills. The other students are very functional students and cannot concentrate when such disruptions are constant!

Rosemary O

The one below made me sad…”My child is 3 years old and not behaving in class…”
My goodness! He is 3 years old! Isn’t that the answer? He is simply too young to behave in a class setting. And we need to define “behave.” Is he expected to sit still for longer than he is developmentally able to do?


As I read this article, my heart sinks, you see, that child could be anyone of ours who deal with autism on a daily basis.
As a teacher you seem ill equipped to deal with the outbursts. Perhaps, and I know this will get me in trouble, you should consider taking some courses in special ed that may help you cope.
To me, a Grandfather of a 4 1/2 year old non verbal autistic Grandson who we have raised since a newborn, it seems a shame that this child will become the whipping post as the “normal children” see you struggle with dealing with this child.
I understand your frustration, there’s not one of us who deal with this daily that hasn’t had days where you could just cry, but that is of no help to the child.
We have to ensure that autistic children have proper schools built, adequate therapy and special ed teachers to help them cope.


My son is 3 years old and he is not behaving in class. What should I do? I need help.


It is difficult to overstate the importance of the functional assessment. Without understanding the causes of the behavior, much time can be wasted “disciplining” the child or trying to get alternative placement.

Try to see the child as a student who HAS a problem rather than a student who IS a problem. This approach models behavior that teaches acceptance and compassion to the entire class. We all will interact with people who have behavioral differences.

Behaviors related to a disability are outside of the child’s willful control. Imagine being looked at as a “trouble maker” for sneezing during allergy season, or needing glassed to see. And simply because a child is able to control a behavior one day, does not mean they can control it all days.


Classrooms could use a talented behavior controller along with the talented creative innovative teacher. These talents often don’t exist in the same person. Just like a physics genius may not be a good actor. Given this about human abilities. It’d be better if we had dual teaching classrooms.

Without this these extremely disruptive student (special ed or not) do take time away from the others education. Actually they take away about 30-45% of the instructional time!


The child u describe sounds exactly like my son. He is the elephant in the room. Your response to it is critical. Once the REGULAR students see that the teacher is frustrated by his behavior, it becomes open season for bullying. Believe me, this i know.

My husband and i have been fighting for 5 yrs. to have my son placed in a classroom where he is not the elephant in the room, only to be told that they can handle it and protect him. Still waiting. I would rather have my son understood than for him to come home from school, saying “I wish i were dead,”, ”Why does everyone hate me?”, Why am i so different?”

As a parent, I don’t believe he should be singled out in his classroom. Talk to the parent, be honest, and work it out. They may feel the same as I do, and prefer that he is placed where he better fits.


Your concern about “protecting your general education students” further perpetrates an “us vs them” mentality that implies a child with special needs is something one must be “protected” from. If his blurting out and disruptions are part of his disability, have you conferred with his team regarding behavior plans or successful techniques used in the past? Is there a LBS1 or aide in the room with you? Perhaps you can explore ways to incorporate this student into your classroom successfully or ways in which to make his time in your classroom more positive rather than jumping to getting him out under the guise of “protecting” the others. Part of being a teacher is teaching the students in front of you where they present.


We are in the midst of this situation, almost at the end of a second school year wasted. His diagnosis is Sensory Processing Disorder. I am beginning to think that a complete inclusion in the mainstream program is actually more restrictive and found this article as I navigate how to proceed. It is very much us vs them – at age 8 he is the subject of all that is wrong in his teacher’s class. ): but they do not have an SDC program and would have to release him to another district ie lose funding they receive for him and refuse to. Any words of advice?