How Educators Secretly Remove Students With Disabilities From School!

On a recent afternoon, Jessica LaVigne was nervous but hopeful that the team in charge of her son’s particular education plan at Roseburg High School would tell her what she had hoped for more than a decade: that he would be able to go to school for a full day for the first time since second grade.

Ms. LaVigne was called almost every day when her son was in elementary school to pick him up early because he was having “a bad day.” By the time he was in middle school, he only went for an hour a day.

By the time he was in high school, he was told he had to “earn” back two class periods that had been taken away from him by showing he was ready academically and socially.

As she and her 15-year-old son Dakotah walked into the school for the meeting, Ms. LaVigne, who works as a banquet server at a nearby casino, felt like time was running out.

She said, “I used to want him to go to college, but now I just want him to live a normal life in society,” she had said earlier. “If he doesn’t go to school, I don’t know how that can happen.”

Dakotah’s rough school life has been marked by a series of “informal removals,” which schools use secretly and sometimes illegally to eliminate challenging students with disabilities.

How Educators Secretly Remove Students With Disabilities From School!
How Educators Secretly Remove Students With Disabilities From School!

The removals, which can include sending students home repeatedly in the middle of the day or cutting their schooling to a few hours a week, often go against federal civil rights laws that protect people with disabilities.

In a report from last year, the National Disability Rights Network, a national nonprofit set up by Congress more than 40 years ago, said that “off-the-books suspensions” happen hundreds or thousands of times yearly.

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The report noted that some of the removals were “transfers to nowhere” when students are sent against their will to programs that don’t exist.

Schools aren’t required to report the removals the same way they do formal suspensions and expulsions, so it’s hard to track them and figure out their effect.

But interviews with families, teachers, and experts, as well as a review of school emails, particular education records, and other documents by The New York Times, show that informal removals are harmful and hurt some of the most vulnerable children in the country.

Students are held back in school and left out of social circles. Their families are often left hopeless and in need.

A lawyer with the National Disability Rights Network, Diane Smith Howard, said, “The reality is that there are children in this country who are still considered of insufficient quality to go to school,” “This would never be deemed acceptable for students without disabilities.”

Dr. Russell J. Skiba, a professor emeritus at Indiana University and an expert in special education, said that informal removals showed the “precarious balance” that schools must find between discipline and education for disabled students.

He said some kids with disabilities might do better with a different schedule, but many are taken out of school to solve problems.

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