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Sammi:  My 5th Grader was suspended from 1 day of school after losing a game and in a moment of anger, threatening to shoot the leader of the winning group. The school says he was suspended for “assault,” which includes threats to others. My son has health impairments including cerebral palsy, ADHD, anxiety and impulsivity. I’m concerned the punishment is too severe, particularly in light of his disability. Should we consider appealing the suspension in light of his IEP? Or will that run the risk of him being placed in an alternative setting? This was a first-time offense/suspension. It was not intentional and he has no access to guns.

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Jill G

In your son’s situation, the bip may include pre-strategies like talking to your son about winning and losing beforehand, peri-strategies like your son using a rehearsed phrase if he loses to help diffuse tension, fall-back strategies like him being able to take some private time, and post-strategies like the teacher talking to him about what happened and what could be done differently next time. BIPs sometimes also include alternative discipline.

You may also want to request that the school assess your son’s socially and pragmatic language skills. You and I know it’s socially unacceptable to say what your son said, but he probably doesn’t. And he may not learn unless he is given instruction around this and other social cues.

Jill G

Normally with behavioral issues, a functional behavioral assessment (fba) is conducted. This is used to determine the root of the behavior. In your situation it’s kind of figured out – your son lost, got angry, and made threats. You can still request an FBA be conducted, though, if there is a potential for other behavioral challenges in other types of situation.

You may also want to ask for a behavioral intervention plan (bip). This is typically developed after an fba is conducted and outlines what will happen to prevent behavior beforehand, what will happen if your child is in the situation where the behavior might occur, and what will happen when the behavior has occurred.

Jill G

Sammi –

Child-on-child gun violence is unfortunately a very real thing these days. You may know your child was just angry and has no access to guns, but others (school staff, classmates, the police) may not know. It’s reasonable to expect that the school will take a tough stance on this. And to a certain extend, they can discipline students with disabilities the same as non-disabled students.

I can’t say whether you should appeal the suspension, but I do suggest that you move to prevent this from happening in the future. I encourage you to meet with the school to discuss the situation and develop a plan of action.