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Bullying, Harassment, or Intimidation Reporting Form

The Bullying,Harrassment, or Intimidation Reporting Form, 2013 should be used to report alleged bullying harassment, or intimidation that occurred during the current school year on school property, at a school-sponsored activity or event off school property, on a school bus, or on the way to and/or from school; or that substantially disrupted the orderly operation of the school. Bullying, harassment and intimidation mean any intentional conduct, including verbal, physical or written conduct, or an intentional electronic communication, that creates a hostile educational environment by substantially interfering with a student’s educational benefits, opportunities or performance, or with a student’s physical or psychological well-being.

 

Yes! Bullying Can Be Addressed through the IEP

Today’s headlines are filled with news about bullying at school. The latest phenomenon “bullicide” is when kids who are being bullied commit suicide. Let’s face it, bullying can be pretty scary and should concern most any parent who has a child attending school. However, it is especially worrisome for parents who have children with disabilities, because research shows that kids with disabilities are more likely to be targeted. This is especially so for kids with developmental disabilities such as autism, because they are less likely to be able to navigate their way around social situations by the very nature of their disability.Written by special education advocate Julie Swanson and attorney Jennifer Laviano. ©YourSpecialEducation-Rights.com. Reprinted with permission.

Almost every family we work with that includes a child with ASD reports that their child has been affected by bullying. Unfortunately, we both work with parents who tell us that their school team tells them that bullying can’t be addressed through the special education IEP (Individualized Education Plan).

We are here to say it most certainly can! Here are a few practical tips as you tackle the problem:

1. Ask for your school district’s bullying policy and procedures.

2. Screen your child at home. Talk to him or her and explore what’s happening at school and with peers. Set up a data collection system at home that tracks any changes in behavior.

3. Screen your child at school. Have a team meeting with your child’s special education team and make them aware of the situation. Ask the school team to monitor your child over a period of time and set up a data collection system among the team to track any changes. Make sure that monitoring takes place across all structured and non-structured school settings (the classroom, hallways, lunch room, bathroom, school bus, and at recess).

4. Document the issue and request that the documentation be placed in your child’s educational file.

5. Determine if what is happening is a reportable offense in accordance with school policies.

6. Put a (written) plan in place with the school team.

7. Recognize the difference between a school-wide approach to bullying and a child-centered approach. School-wide approaches include getting other kids involved in resolving the bullying issue such as pairing the student with an ASD with a peer buddy. A child-centered approach involves the child with an ASD gaining a skill or learning to change their own behavior, recognizing a bully or having a bank of responses to say to a bully, for example.

8. Consider what is making your child vulnerable to being bullied. If you don’t identify the specific problem your child is having then it is more difficult to address it and help remediate it through the IEP. For example, is it your child’s inability to read/recognize social cues (shunning, teasing, gesturing, etc.), inability to respond effectively (lack of a strategy bank), or inability to self-advocate. Once you’ve identified these type of issues, you can argue that these social skill deficits should be addressed as social skill goals and objectives in the IEP.

9. Develop a plan targeting your child’s level of ability. Set up a buddy system in unstructured settings (school-wide). Develop incentives for other kids to participate as buddies (school-wide). Develop classroom lessons to raise awareness of bullying, that will be taken seriously and there will be consequences when students bully (school-wide).

10. Develop IEP goals to ad-dress each individual social skill deficit (student-centered). Develop IEP goals to address each individual pragmatic language deficit (student-centered).

From a legal perspective, one of the most difficult challenges in addressing bullying in our public schools is that, while many states do have laws on the books regarding bullying, they generally do not include what is called a “private right of action.” In English, and summarizing a very complicated legal premise, this means that while the law exists, there is no right to sue someone who violates it under that specific statute. Therefore, parents whose children are being routinely tormented at school who are faced with an administration who elects not to properly address the situation are left to utilize other state or federal laws if they want to find justice in our courts.

Therefore, when a parent is considering what rights their child has if their child with autism is being bullied, first and foremost they should ask themselves whether changes need to be made in the IEP. Be prepared to hear your IEP team grumble that bullying is “not a special education issue,” but indeed it is.

If a student’s disability is causing them to exhibit behaviors, which are making them particularly vulnerable to harassment by their peers, or to fail to understand appropriate social interaction in the “mainstream,” then absolutely this needs to be addressed in the student’s special education program.

Without appropriate special education support and instruction for students with disabilities within our public school settings, we are setting our kids with autism up for being targeted, humiliated, and excluded within the regular education environment. This is in direct contravention of one of the key purposes of the IDEA, which is to include children with disabilities in their public schools. What is happening as a result of our failure to adequately scaffold special education programs and instruction for students whose autism spectrum disorder places them at even greater risk for bullying is that we are returning to the days of segregation of children with disabilities, as a matter of fact, if not as a matter of law.

“Just a Bad Day” or Undocumented Suspension?

There are many reasons why students are sent home. The purpose of this article is not to debate when an incident is ‘send-home’ worthy or ‘suspension’ worthy. Rather, it is to explain why send-homes without proper documentation are actually against school policy and why parents who race to pick up their children every time the school calls actually are doing a disservice to their children.IDEA does not restrict schools from disciplining children with disabilities. When a child violates school rules and is a danger to himself, herself, or others, the temporary removal of that student may be necessary. However, if a school chooses to dismiss a child during the school day for a disability-related incident, the school is actually suspending and excluding the child from his educational programming. The school administrator is required to complete suspension paperwork in order for the child to be dismissed.

Parents may not want the stigma of suspension tied to their child. They may not want anything on file that ever suggests their child was disruptive enough to be suspended. But what’s the other side of the argument? What are the benefits of parents requesting that suspension paperwork be completed? 

Each school system and the Maryland State Department of Education keep track of suspensions for a number of reasons. Most important is to ensure that students in any subgroup are not being disproportionately suspended. In 2010-11, HCPSS suspended only 9% of the student population. Notably, however, 22% of those students had a disability. There is no clear data on how many more undocumented suspensions there were. If every parent were to ask for the suspension paperwork, MSDE would have more accurate data to reconsider regulations and interventions.

Another benefit to documentation is that it can lead to more productive discussions about placement and/or behavior intervention plans. When behavior impedes learning—which a dismissal from the education day implies—IDEA requires IEP teams to consider positive behavioral interventions and supports. If a child is repeatedly sent home for having another ‘bad day,’ documentation would lead to an IEP team meeting and, after 10 dismissals, a manifestation determination. Teams would be required to consider whether the student’s conduct is a manifestation of the student’s disability, whether the conduct is a result of failure to properly implement the IEP, and/or whether a functional behavior assessment or review of a behavior plan is necessary. 

Patty Daley, executive director of the HCPSS Office of Special Education, encourages parents to use their best judgment on when to pick up their child, but notes that parents are not required to pick up their child for behavior unless he or she has been officially suspended. She further advises that parents who are concerned about undocumented suspensions contact the instructional team leader at their school and/or the resource teacher assigned to the school.

Student Discipline—Understanding What’s Legal, What’s Not, and What a Behavior Intervention Plan Has to Do With It

Behavioral challenges are a hallmark of autism and related disorders. While every parent dreads a phone call from school, the one announcing a suspension is especially feared. The reality is that children with disruptive or dangerous behaviors may be disciplined at some point by their schools. In an effort to help parents understand the regulations about student discipline, this article identifies key points about what is legal and what is not, and what difference a behavior intervention plan can make.The procedural safeguards of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) were designed to ensure that students with disabilities who receive special education services were not arbitrarily removed from their educational program or from the least restrictive environment (LRE) without consent. That said, IDEA does not restrict schools from disciplining children with disabilities. School systems have a responsibility to maintain a safe environment. When a child violates school rules and disrupts the rights of others, the temporary removal of that student may be necessary.

What if a child has difficulty understanding the proper code of conduct?  Parents should be given the opportunity to discuss the discipline code with teachers when it is a concern for their child. Parents know their children best and are most helpful in predicting problems. Such discussions can then lead to the development of Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals. Likewise, disability-related challenges should be noted if they prevent the child from meeting the expectations of the school’s code. 

How can the IEP serve as a vehicle for effective behavior management? IEPs are meant to address both academic needs and other educational needs that result from a child’s disability. When behavior impedes learning or the learning of others, IDEA requires IEP teams to consider positive behavioral interventions and supports.

What is a functional behavioral assessment? A functional behavioral assessment (FBA) determines what the function of certain behaviors may be and how a child’s disability may affect behavior. If an FBA is required, a team of teachers and specialists should observe and document behaviors over a number of weeks, noting the antecedent (what comes before the behavior), behavior, and consequence (what happens as a result of the behavior). Besides teachers, parents and others working closely with the child should be interviewed. A behavior specialist or school psychologist may also be involved; he or she collects and analyzes the data, and presents the findings to the IEP team.   

What is a behavior intervention plan (commonly referred to as a “BIP”)? An effective individualized behavior intervention plan (1) identifies behaviors that may occur as a result of a child’s disability and (2) sets out a plan to prevent the occurrence of those behaviors. Behavioral goals—similar to those for any academic subject—should be developed and, ideally, included in the IEP.  The BIP should clearly identify how behaviors will be addressed if they do occur. The plan should identify how to de-escalate behaviors with the use of positive supports, and how to shape replacement behaviors.  As with academic goals, behavioral goals should be measurable, frequently reviewed, and modified as needed.

For additional information on this topic, wrightslaw.com is highly recommended.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS)

What is School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports?
 
The Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports has been established by the Office of Special Education Programs, US Department of Education to give schools capacity-building information and technical assistance for identifying, adapting, and sustaining effective school-wide disciplinary practices.
 
The following article answers: 1) What is School-wide (SW) PBIS? 2) What does PBIS emphasize? and 3) What Outcomes Are Associated with Implementation of SW PBIS? Click here to read more.