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Can the school suspend or expel my child who has a disability?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute & Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts
Created February, 2022

Yes, the school can suspend or expel a child with a disability. But, the school should not suspend or expel your child for behavior that is caused by or related to your child’s disability. All students have the right to a hearing before they are suspended.


Ask for a team meeting and a FBA if the school is disciplining your child for the same type of behavior over and over.

Suspended for 10 days or less in the school year

All students have the right to a hearing before they are suspended. At the hearing, you can explain why you think your child's disability is the reason for their behavior. Ask for a Team Meeting to discuss more support for your child.

Suspended for more than 10 days in the school year

The IEP Team must hold a ” "Manifestation Determination Review" meeting if:

  • Your child has an IEP,
  • The school is considering suspending your child for more than 10 days at once, or more than 10 days over the course of a school year.

At the meeting, the Team must discuss and decide if:

  • Your child’s disability caused the behavior,
  • Your child’s behavior had a direct relationship to their disability, or
  • Your child’s behavior was a direct result of the school’s failure to follow the IEP.

The school cannot suspend or expel your child if:

  • Your child’s behavior was related to their disability, or
  • The school’s failure to implement the IEP.

Your child has the right to go back to their placement immediately if the school agrees that your child's disability was the reason for your child's behavior. But you and the school can agree to a different placement. The school must do a Functional Behavioral Assessment or update your child’s Behavioral Intervention Plan

Certain behaviors give the school the right to change your child's placement even if their behavior is related to their disability. If your child's behavior involved drugs, weapons, or serious bodily harm, the school can change your child’s placement for up to 45 days. The new placement is an “Interim Alternative Educational Setting.”

If the Team decides your child’s disability did not cause your child’s behavior, they can discipline your child like they would any other student.

If you disagree with the Team’s decision, and you believe your child’s disability caused the behavior, you can appeal to the BSEA.


If your child has a 504 Plan make sure the school holds a "Manifestation Determination Review meeting before they suspend your child for more than 10 days.

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