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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When Do We Draw the LINE...

When a student disobeys one of the school codes of conduct, it results in disciplinary action as a consequence of the violation. What happens when it’s a student that has a disability? According to the Individuals Disabilities Act of 1997 (IDEA), a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) has to either be reviewed or conducted by the school psychologist before the school authority can take disciplinary action against a student with a disability. An FBA is a problem solving process that addresses a problem behavior that a child is exhibiting. It uses techniques to identify what triggers the specific behavior and interventions are created in order to directly address the behavior. A student with a disability should NOT be disciplined without the consideration of their FBA.

Two different children can display the same behavior, but the function of the behavior may serve two completely different meanings. For example, let’s say one child throws a chair across the classroom because they do not like the teacher. Now lets say a child with Asperger Syndrome (AS) throws a chair across the room, not because they do not like the teacher, but because he/she is having difficulty with trying to communicate what they want to say. Individuals with AS often have a hard time managing their emotions. One of the reasons why is because they have difficulties expressing what they want to say, which is known as Alexithymia. It is easier to use physical action as a release from their emotional energy. So in this case, would it be fair to serve both children with the same disciplinary action? Absolutely NOT!! In this instance, it is the job of the school psychologist to address the behavior according to the student’s FBA, not the school authority. When any student that has a disability violates a school code of conduct, it would appropriate for the school psychologist to intervene. It is their job to review the student’s FBA or conduct one in order to come up with an appropriate disciplinary action.

The utilization of FBAs has proven to be a successful way to produce a desirable behavior over a maladaptive one. Although there is no universal way in conducting a FBA, there are several areas that are considered in the process such as the purpose of the assessment, the definition of the problem, designing/evaluating interventions, etc. An FBA is a well thought out process that consists of beneficial information on a student with a disability. The interventions are carefully considered according to the student’s strengths and weaknesses. Our point? Are schools taking the necessary steps and using the FBA when determining what type of disciplinary action should be taken with a child that has a disability?

From personal observations and feedback from schools, it is unclear if school psychologists are getting the opportunity to intervene all the time. Is this fair to the student with a disability? Do you see the school authority consulting with the school psychologist before making a decision? Do they even feel as if these considerations should me made? If not using the FBA as a guide, what measures are they taking to consider the type of disciplinary action that should take place? In your opinion, do you think a FBA is even necessary to review when taking disciplinary action?

This Blog was created by: Cassie Porter, Jovanna Ossa, Nicole I. Sánchez & Preeti Patel