Tuesday, February 27, 2007

ED or CD?

I have a new student who, like most of my students, is labelled as emotionally disturbed. He mostly maintains in the classroom fine but he has conflicts with male peers that lead him to some extreme behavior. This behavior has manifested as this student causing serious injury to other students as well threatening students, staff and parents (with some truly vile language). Because he is a student who qualifies as needing special education a school's ability to punish him is limited. Basically you can suspend a kid for ten days after which you need to determine whether his behavior is a result of his disability. If it is, you can't suspend, never mind expel the student.

None of that is terribly interesting to me because I'm not much for punishment since it's mostly a form of revenge. However, the rub is that if a student as violent as this one gets into trouble with the law he would then be able to access all sorts of resources that he would otherwise not be able to access. So, there's been some discussion of reevaluating this student to determine if he truly is emotionally disturbed. It could be the case that he simply has a conduct disorder. The former is a label served by special education, and thus protected by that ten day suspension rule I mentioned, and the latter is not. So you can suspend and expel a student labelled as CD but not one labelled ED. Makes perfect sense, right? It gets worse.

If he's labelled CD the county would have to pick up the tab on whatever services he receives because it would be outside of school. This is strong incentive in a school district feeling a pretty serious economic crunch. Also, there's the possibility of this student ending up as part of the juvenile deliquent system. And there's some suggestion that this may be what he really needs. It's hard to argue with that when you read what he's done to other kids. But it's not hard to argue with that when he sits in your class and smiles at jokes in the novel we're reading.

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