Suspension and expulsion of students with disabilities may generally be treated the same way under both the IDEA and 504. OCR has stated that districts may apply the same protections available to students classified as disabled under the IDEA to students classified as disabled under 504 as a means of compliance. However, a student with an identified disability under Section 504 who violates any Education Code 48900 section related to the use of alcohol, drugs, or illegal substances can be disciplined in the same manner as a non-disabled student. [Title 29, USC 705 (20)(c)(iv)].
§ If a 504 student is to be suspended more than 10 days, a manifestation determination must be conducted prior to an expulsion hearing.
Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP)
504 can require districts to develop a BIP for students with disabilities when their behavioral difficulties significantly interfere with their ability to benefit from their education.
Long Term Removals
A district must conduct a reevaluation before making any “significant change in placement.” [34 CFR 104.35(a)]. An exclusion of more than 10 consecutive school days is considered a “significant change in placement.”
Similar to IDEA, OCR interprets a “significant change in placement” to also encompass a series of short-term suspensions when they total more than 10 days and constitute a “pattern of removals.” [34 CFR 300.536].
The following steps should be followed when recommending a Section 504 student for expulsion:
1. The pre-expulsion evaluation and manifestation determination should be completed BEFORE day 5. A copy of the Section 504 evaluation and administrative hearing/expulsion packet must be provided to Student Support Services no later than the day of the hearing.
2. Should a violation of these timelines occur, a student MAY NOT be expelled, and the matter will be referred back to the Section 504 Team for needed support.
Manifestation Determination Review
The process for evaluating whether a student's misconduct is related to his disability has historically been referred to as the manifestation determination (MD). While the term does not appear in the 504 regulations, OCR has stated 504 requires an MD review for disciplinary actions that constitute a significant change in placement. A district may not exclude a student beyond 10 days unless it conducts an MD review and finds that the student’s misconduct is not related to his/her disability.
The process for a MD review is specified in the IDEA. In 2004, the IDEA changed the MD inquiry, simplifying the process. Conduct is a manifestation of a child’s disability if:
1. The conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child's disability; or
2. If the conduct in question was the direct result of the district’s failure to implement the IEP.
Placements and Services
Because California law requires the provision of continued services to expelled students, and to avoid discrimination concerns, districts should ensure that appropriate accommodations and services are provided to the 504 student in the expelled placement.
See the Educator’s Guide to Section 504 for more information