School Discipline

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell: A discipline lawyer who represents children who have been subject to repeated suspension or exclusion, children who have experienced toxic stress or trauma

washington DC Discipline and Discrimination lawyerDo you have a child with a disability who has been repeatedly suspended or kept out of class?  Do you feel like your child’s school disciplines your child differently than it disciplines non-disabled students for the same conduct?  Has your child experienced trauma or toxic stress?  Do you think that your child is misbehaving as a response to that trauma or stress?

Discipline is an area of growing concern in traditional public schools and in public charter schools.  School discipline is not always logically connected to student misconduct or designed to teach and encourage students to consider and choose appropriate behaviors.  Often school discipline is implemented reactively because of other factors, including race, disability, zero tolerance policies, or lack of training or adequate resources.

Moreover, students often experience adverse childhood experiences, trauma and toxic stress — whether from divorce, death of a loved one, incarceration of parent, abuse, homelessness, unstable living conditions or witnessing violence in the home or the community.  As a result, these students may suffer negative effects on their brain development, their attention and focus, and, consequently, on their academic progress (especially in reading and language arts) in school.  Students also act out or misbehave as a response to trauma and toxic stress. Though scientific studies have validated the negative effects of adverse childhood experiences, trauma and toxic stress on the  behavior of students, schools have generally continued to implement zero tolerance, discipline based responses to student behavior, rather than implement trauma informed practices.

Mr. Atwell represents children who have been subject to long term suspension or expulsion in connection with behavior at school.

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell provides an experienced Washington D.C. lawyer poised with a background in public education and regulatory compliance to represent your child in communications with school administrators, during the IEP process, and in hearings that concern discipline issues.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and IDEA: Discipline Based on Disability

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discriminatory discipline of students with disabilities.  These protections are in addition to those provided under IDEA, which prohibits discipline that would result in a change in placement of students with disabilities, which would affect their access to a free and appropriate education.

The federal rules under IDEA encourage the use of functional behavior assessments and positive behavior supports to address misbehavior in school.  Students and parents are also entitled to a hearing to challenge certain school suspensions or other exclusionary discipline imposed where there is a question whether the student’s conduct is a manifestation of his or her disability.

The Law Office of Nigel M. Atwell can represent you in any hearing related to unfair or discriminatory discipline, especially with respect to children with disabilities.