Discipline of children with disabilities is a hot topic. In this blog post I will address proactive measures IEP teams must take to prevent or minimize behavioral issues. In future posts I will address measures schools must take for code of conduct violations, especially ones that result in disciplinary removal from school ten days or more.

On August 1, 2016, the US Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to clarify the need for behavioral supports in IEPs. (See http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/files/dcl-on-pbis-in-ieps–08-01-2016.pdf) The California Department of Education has a page dedicated to Behavioral Intervention Plans. (See http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/se/ac/bip.asp)


In order to provide positive behavioral support to students with disabilities, federal and state laws require schools, in certain circumstances, to conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA). A functional behavioral assessment is used to identify the purposes of specific behavior and help IEP teams select interventions and strategies to address the problem behavior. The information gained during the assessment process is then used to create a positive behavioral intervention plan.

When is an FBA Required

The IEP team must consider the use of positive behavioral interventions, supports and strategies to address problem behaviors when:

  • The student’s behavior is a manifestation of his or her disability; and
  • The student’s behavior impedes the student’s learning; or
  • The learning of other students.

(34 CFR Section 300.324(a)(2)(i))

Process of the FBA

Although federal and state laws do not define a FBA, OSERS has clarified that the FBA’s focus is to identify the purpose behind a student’s behavior. IDEA requires all evaluations must use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather information about the child, and assess the child in all areas of the suspected disability.

Persons Who May Administer FBA

California Education Code Section 56320(b)(3) requires assessments be administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel and must be administered in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of the assessments, except that individually administered tests of intellectual or emotional functioning shall be administered by a credentialed school psychologist.

A certified behavior analyst may conduct behavior assessments and provide behavioral intervention services but are not required. (Cal. Education Code Section 56525)  Assessments shall be conducted by persons who are “competent to perform the assessment”. (Cal. Education Code Section 56322)

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP)

If the IEP team determines the student’s conduct was due to the student’s disability the team shall implement a BIP for the child. If a BIP was already in place then the IEP team shall review and modify it, as necessary. The IEP team may also include measurable goals in the IEP to address a student with a disabilities’ behavior.

Behavioral Supports

According to OSERS “Dear Colleague” letter:

Research shows that school-wide, small group, and individual behavioral supports that use proactive and preventative approaches, address the underlying cause of behavior, and reinforce positive behaviors are associated with increases in academic engagement, academic achievement, and fewer suspensions and dropouts. In short, children are more likely to achieve when they are directly taught predictable and contextually relevant school and classroom routines and expectations, acknowledged clearly and consistently for displaying positive academic and social behavior, consistently prompted and corrected when behavior does not meet expectations, and treated by others with respect.

Behavior supports must be supported by peer-reviewed research. (34 CFR Section 300.320(a)(4))

On-line Tools for Schools, Parents, and Caregivers

The US Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs has created Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS). Their website is http://www.pbis.org. The California Department of Education maintains the Positive Environments, Network of Trainers (PENT) Website to help educators write effective behavioral plans. (See http://www.pent.ca.gov/ ) There is no one size fits all solution for each student. Both websites provide information to schools and families in an effort to define, support, and teach appropriate behaviors and create positive school environments.

Should you have any further questions, please contact Kristin Springer at specialedlegaljourney@comcast.net.

(Note: This Blog/Web Site is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. The website has been designed to be a resource for information on matters that might be of interest to current or potential clients but does not establish that relationship. For further information visit my Disclaimer page- https://specialedlegaljourney.com/about/disclaimer/)




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