CHALLENGING BEHAVIOR, DISCIPLINE, AND CODE OF CONDUCT
Addressing Student Behavior Problems in Advance of Disciplinary Action
It is presumed that the majority of instances or episodes of challenging or disruptive behavior exhibited by any student enrolled at NYCACS will be associated with his or her diagnosis. The School will follow internal protocols in such instances before implementing the disciplinary procedures set forth within the School’s Student Code of Conduct. The internal protocols are as follows:
When a concerning behavior occurs, crisis management procedures – in which all clinical staff are trained – may be used to ensure the safety of the student, other students in the classroom or larger School, and staff. If crisis management procedures are used that are not part of a student’s existing behavior intervention plan, the parents/legal guardians will be notified immediately.
When a maladaptive behavior is identified that is dangerous, interferes with learning, and/or is stigmatizing to the student, parental/legal guardian consent will be obtained for collection of baseline data and a functional assessment of the target behavior. If there are concerns about a prolonged assessment period given the severity of a particular topography of behavior, parental/legal guardian consent may be requested for an immediate behavior intervention probe (see below).
The assessment period may require a reduction of or suspension of typical educational programming for a reasonable time period – one that allows for a thorough assessment to be conducted and, ideally, for challenging behavior to be reduced to more manageable levels. A behavior intervention probe is designed once behavioral function has been determined. Such a probe includes: an operational definition of the target behavior(s), baseline information, functional assessment tools and findings, measurement procedure(s), intervention procedure(s) that include a reinforcement component, and a staff training protocol. Parental/legal guardian consent (verbal) is required prior to implementation. Written consent must be obtained within 4 days after receiving verbal consent. If a probe is found to be ineffective, all data collected to date and functional behavior assessment information will be reviewed and an alternate behavior intervention probe will be developed. If data indicate that a probe procedure allows for sufficient reduction in or management of challenging behavior, the probe will be converted into a formal plan – once again, after updated parental/legal guardian consent. A formal behavior intervention plan includes: an operational definition of the target behavior(s), baseline information, functional assessment tools and findings, previous procedures used to address target behavior(s) and rationales for discontinuation, measurement procedure(s), intervention procedure(s) that include a reinforcement component, rationales, skill acquisition programs and strategies to increase adaptive alternative behavior, procedures to fade, risks of implementing and not implementing the procedure(s), and a staff training protocol.
Data on target challenging behavior are collected frequently – typically every day – and reviewed multiple times per week. Formal evaluations are conducted by classroom staff members on a monthly basis, with review and oversight by Clinical Supervisors and the Head of School.
The school’s Human Rights Committee reviews all plans that have any type of restrictive component (e.g., removal from the classroom) to ensure that plans are ethical and respect the rights of each student, that there is evidence of parental/legal guardian consent, and that they are effective in reducing and/or maintaining low levels of target behavior.
There may be situations in which levels of challenging behavior cannot be managed within the context of the staffing, support, and expertise provided by NYCACS. If the School is of the opinion that it can no longer appropriately educate a student, the following steps will be taken:
- A meeting will be held with the student’s parents/legal guardians to discuss the School’s concerns. Given that this student would already have had a behavior intervention plan in place (see steps above) and that there would have been frequent dialogue with parents/guardians around challenging behavior (particularly as such behavior would typically be occurring at home as well) it is likely that the parents/legal guardians will already be well aware of these concerns.
- A behavioral/educational consultant may be brought in to offer recommendations as to programmatic changes that can be made.
- If such programmatic changes are not feasible or effective, the CSE will be notified that the School feels it is no longer in a position to appropriately educate the student within its current structure. A review will be scheduled with the CSE team, school personnel, and parents/legal guardians, at which time alternate educational options will be discussed. These may include layering in additional support or identifying alternate educational or treatment settings.
Student Code of Conduct
Students may be subject to disciplinary consequences in instances where intentional misbehavior calls for it.
The School is committed to maintaining a safe, orderly learning environment. Instances of the following behaviors may result in a Short-Term Suspension from school:
- Any attempt to injure or harm another individual;
- Any behavior that presents an imminent threat to the health and safety of self or others;
- Any behavior that causes significant property destruction or disruption of the learning environment;
- Any other act that the School reasonably concludes warrants a disciplinary response.
The following behaviors may result in a Long-Term Suspension or Expulsion from school
- Possession or use of a weapon and/or attempt to make a weapon
- Assault and/or battery that results in serious harm to another individual
- Endangering the safety of the School or another individual in a serious manner
- Distribution/use/possession of a weapon or other dangerous object
- Sexual harassment
- Creating a fire with the intent to cause serious harm
- Committing a felony
- Engaging in any behavior that threatens the safety of the school community
- Any other act that the School reasonably concludes warrants a serious disciplinary response
For purposes of the NYCACS student disciplinary code (Code of Conduct):
- “Short-Term Suspension” will occur within the school building and refer to the removal of a student from normal classroom placement for disciplinary reasons and further assessment for a period of ten (10) or fewer days;
- “Long-Term Suspension” will occur within the school building and refer to the removal of a student from normal classroom placement for disciplinary reasons and further assessment for a period of more than ten (10) days;
- “Expulsion” shall refer to the permanent removal of a student from school for disciplinary reasons.
In response to such behavior, the Executive Director or his/her designee will investigate and take appropriate action. For Short-Term suspensions, students will be given an opportunity to understand and respond to the charges against them and then, if the Executive Director or his/her designee, deems it appropriate, will be removed from the regular classroom for the suspension period. For more serious or chronic infractions, the School may seek a longer-term suspension or expulsion. A hearing will be held to consider any such action; the student and School will have an opportunity to present and challenge evidence and a determination will be made by an independent hearing officer.
The Code of Conduct sets forth the school’s policy regarding how students are expected to behave when participating in school activities, on and off school grounds, and how the School will respond when students fail to behave in accordance with these rules. NYCACS recognizes that students with autism often engage in a variety of socially inappropriate and even dangerous behaviors as result of their disability.
NYCACS adheres to the following procedural guidelines:
- A functional behavior assessment is conducted on any student behavior subject to the disciplinary procedure, and prior to the development of a behavior intervention plan;
- Students for whom the IEP includes specific disciplinary protocols are disciplined in accordance with those protocols. If the disciplinary protocols appear to be ineffective or if there is a concern for the health and safety of the student or others, the matter is immediately referred to the local school district’s Committee on Special Education (CSE) for consideration of a change in the student’s disciplinary protocols;
- Consistent with applicable law, the School may suspend a student for up to 10 days (consecutively or cumulatively) without triggering additional process or a manifestation determination. When a suspension beyond 10 days is sought, the CSE is notified immediately of any further suspension or removal from classes, and NYCACS works with the CSE to arrange appropriate alternative instruction.
- In order to determine whether an infraction that would result in a suspension beyond 10 days is related to a student’s disability, the student is immediately referred to the CSE. If a connection is found as determined at the mandated manifestation determination meeting, no penalty may be imposed, and the School works with the CSE to consider a possible program modification. The School may work with the CSE to also establish a behavior intervention plan or modify such a plan or its implementation. The School will work with the CSE to ensure that each student’s behavior intervention plan is fully implemented.
- If a student identified as having a disability is suspended during the course of the School year for a total of eight days, such student is immediately referred to the CSE for reconsideration of the student’s educational placement.
- In considering the placement of students referred because of disciplinary problems, the CSE is expected to follow required due process policies and procedures with respect to parental/legal guardian notification and involvement.
- In order to keep the CSE appropriately informed of any disciplinary actions taken, NYCACS notifies the CSE whenever a procedural safeguards notice is issued.
NYCACS is committed to exhausting empirically-based treatment approaches before considering suspension or expulsion. The School also recognizes that failure to eliminate dangerous behaviors must result in action steps protecting the student’s right to a free and appropriate education and ensuring a safe learning environment for other students.
In all disciplinary matters, students and families/legal guardians will be given notice and will have the opportunity to present their version of the facts and circumstances leading to the imposition of disciplinary action to the staff members imposing sanctions. Whenever possible, students with autism will be involved with planning and selecting treatments for problem behavior. Depending on the severity of the infraction, disciplinary responses may include in-school suspension and expulsion. In the event that a student’s behavior presents an imminent safety threat to self or others and cannot be safely managed by NYCACS staff, law enforcement agencies may be contacted.
A student who is determined to have committed any of the infractions listed below may be removed from the classroom for a Short-Term Suspension. Such a suspension is likely to be implemented for any of the following reasons: 1) The student has no history of engaging in the behavior of concern or similar forms of behavior, 2) The topography or magnitude of the behavior is such that it cannot be safely managed within the classroom or in proximity to other students. During this time, school personnel will conduct an intensive functional behavior assessment and plan review to identify which, if any, environmental variables are influencing the student’s behavior. The Executive Director may determine that an exception to the Short-Term Suspension rule should be made based on the individual circumstances of the incident and the student’s history.
Procedures for Short-Term Suspensions
Short-term suspensions may be imposed by the Executive Director. If a student commits an offense that calls for Short-Term Suspension, s/he is subject to the following:
- If necessary, the student is immediately removed from class and/or school.
- The student and/or the student’s parents/legal guardians are directly informed of the charges against him or her. When possible, notification shall be provided by telephone. Such notice shall provide a description of the rule(s) violated and the incident(s) for which suspension is proposed, and shall inform the parents/legal guardians of their right to request an immediate informal conference with the Executive Director and Head of School. Such notice and informal conference shall be in the dominant language of the mode of communication used by the parents/legal guardians if known by NYCACS to be other than English. Notification will also be documented in writing and, if the parents/legal guardians were not reached by phone, this documentation will be sent via email or sealed and sent home in the student’s backpack. Written notice shall be provided by personal delivery or express mail delivery to the last-known address(es) of the parents/legal guardians.
- The student and/or the student’s parents/legal guardians are entitled to respond to the charges against him or her.
- The parents/legal guardians are notified of the imposition of Short-Term Suspension by NYCACS in writing.
- The School will schedule a meeting with the parents/legal guardians in order to discuss the infractions and may reduce the penalty based upon mutual understanding resulting from the meeting.
The School shall follow due process procedures consistent with Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975) relating to Short-Term suspensions.
Procedures for Long-Term Suspensions and Expulsions
The Executive Director or Executive Director’s designee may impose a Long-Term Suspension or Expulsion.
If a student commits an offense that calls for Long-Term Suspension or expulsion, the following steps are taken:
- If necessary, the student is immediately removed from class and/or school.
- The student and/or parents/legal guardians are informed of the charges against him or her.
- Upon determining that a student’s action warrants a possible Long-Term Suspension, the Executive Director or his/her designee shall verbally inform the student and/or parents/legal guardians that he or she is being suspended and is being considered for a Long-Term Suspension (or expulsion) and state the reasons for such actions. If possible, notification of parents/legal guardians shall be provided by telephone. In addition, written notification will be sent via email and/or provided by personal delivery or express mail delivery to the student’s last known address. Such notice shall provide a description of the incident or incidents that resulted in the suspension and shall indicate that a formal hearing will be held on the matter, which may result in a long-term suspension (or expulsion). The notification provided shall be in the dominant language used by the parents/legal guardians if it is known to be other than English. The notice will state that at the formal hearing, the student shall have the right to be represented by counsel, present and question witnesses, and present evidence.
- The School sets a hearing date. The student and his/her parents/legal guardians are notified in writing of the:
- charges and a description of the circumstances that gave rise to the hearing
- date, time and place of a hearing
- notice of the right at the hearing to:
- be represented by legal counsel (at the student’s/parent’s/legal guardian’s own expense)
- present evidence and question witnesses
Long Term Suspension and Expulsion Hearings and Appeals
Where the School seeks to impose a disciplinary consequence of Long Term Suspension or Expulsion, it shall provide verbal and written notice to the student and his or her parents/legal guardians as described above. The chair of the NYCACS Board of Trustees, or his or her designee, shall serve as the hearing officer for the hearing. The Executive Director or their designee shall make the case for suspension or expulsion, introducing evidence and calling witnesses on its behalf. The student is entitled to counsel and shall have an opportunity to defend him or herself against the alleged violations of the school’s disciplinary code. The student may introduce evidence and call witnesses on his or her behalf. Both parties may cross-examine witnesses called by the other party. The hearing shall not exceed two hours in length, unless the hearing officer elects to extend that limit. An audio transcript shall be made of the proceedings and a copy of that recording shall be made available to the student upon request.
The hearing officer shall provide to the student/parents/legal guardians a decision in writing within three school days. Should the student/parents/legal guardians seek to appeal the ruling, he or she may do so by submitting to the NYCACS Board of Trustees a request for appeal. Upon receipt of such a request, a committee comprised of no less than three trustees who were not involved in the initial hearing will promptly hear the appeal. Each party will have twenty minutes in which to make a statement. The scope of the appeal will be limited to positions and the record established during the first disciplinary hearing. In rendering its decision, the committee may consult the transcript of the disciplinary hearing and any evidence submitted in connection with it. The committee will provide a written ruling within three school days. For matters alleging a violation of law or of the school’s charter agreement, appeals of decisions made by the committee may be made first to the school’s authorizer and then to the Board of Regents through the New York State Education Department.
Gun-Free Schools Act
Federal and State law require the expulsion from school for a period of not less than one year of a student who is determined to have brought a firearm to the School, or to have possessed a firearm at school, except that the Executive Director may modify such expulsion requirement for a student on a case-by-case basis, if such modification is in writing, in accordance with the Federal Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 (as amended).
“Weapon,” as used in this law means a “firearm,” as defined by 18 USC§8921, and includes firearms and explosives. (New York Education Law §3214(3)(d) effectuates this federal law.)
The following are included within this definition:
- Any device, instrument, material, or substance that is used for or is readily capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. Knives with a blade of two and half inches or more in length fall within this definition.
- Any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive.
- The frame or receiver of any weapon described above.
- Any firearm muffler or firearm silencer.
- Any destructible device, which is defined as any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas, such as a bomb, grenade, rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces, a missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce, a mine, or other similar device.
- Any weapon which will, or may readily be converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and that has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter.
- Any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device in the two immediately preceding examples, and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled.
The Executive Director shall refer a student under the age of sixteen who has been determined to have brought a weapon or firearm to school to a presentment agency for a juvenile delinquency proceeding consistent with Article 3 of the Family Court Act except a student fourteen or fifteen years of age who qualifies for juvenile offender status under Criminal Procedure Law § 1.20(42). The Executive Director shall refer any student sixteen years of age or older or a student fourteen or fifteen years of age who qualifies for juvenile offender status under Criminal Procedure Law § 1.20(42), who has been determined to have brought a weapon or firearm to school to the appropriate law enforcement officials.
Provision of Services During Removal
The School will adhere to New York State Education Law and ensure that alternative educational services are provided to a student who has been suspended or removed in order to help that student progress with his/her IEP.
During any removal of up to 10 days, services will be provided to the extent necessary to enable the student to appropriately progress with his/her IEP. The Head of School, in consultation with the student’s Clinical Supervisor and Special Education Teacher, shall make the service determination.
During any long-term removal for behavior that is not a manifestation of the student’s disability, services will be provided to the extent necessary to enable the student to appropriately progress with his/her IEP. These service determinations are made by the district’s CSE.
The Executive Director will have final authority to suspend or remove a student in accordance with appropriate regulations. The Executive Director will also maintain all necessary records regarding the number of days a student has been suspended or removed for disciplinary reasons.
Meetings of the district’s CSE to either develop a behavior assessment plan or, if the student has one, to review such a plan are required when 1) the student is first removed from his/her current placement for more than 10 school days in a school year; and 2) when commencing a removal which constitutes a change in placement.
Subsequently, if other removals occur which do not constitute a change in placement, the School will work with the district’s CSE to review the student’s assessment plan and its implementation to determine if modifications are necessary. If one or more members of the district’s CSE believe that modifications are needed, then the district’s CSE is expected to meet to modify the plan and/or its implementation.
If discipline which would constitute a change in placement is contemplated for any student, then (1) not later than the date on which the decision to take such action is made, the parents/legal guardians of the student will be notified of that decision and provided the procedural safeguards notice; and (2) immediately, if possible, but in no case later than 10 school days after the date on which such decision is made, the district’s CSE and other qualified personnel will meet and review the relationship between the student’s disability and the behavior subject to the disciplinary action.
Parents/legal guardians may request a hearing to challenge the manifestation determination. Except as provided below, the student will remain in his/her educational placement for the duration of the hearing.
If a parent/legal guardian requests a hearing or an appeal regarding a disciplinary action relating to weapons or drugs to challenge the interim educational settings or the manifestation determination, the student will remain in the interim alternative educational setting pending the decision of the hearing officer or until the expiration of the time period provided for in the disciplinary action, whichever occurs first, unless the parents/legal guardians and Charter School agree otherwise.
Disciplinary rules and procedures will comply with all federal and state laws, regulations and procedures as well as local policies and are included in the NYCACS’ Student Code of Conduct. These procedures consider the student’s autism as well as the educational approach of the School. The due process procedures are a part of the Student Code of Conduct. NYCACS enrolls only students with disabilities. Therefore, the student and parent/legal guardian appeals processes are those identified in Expedited Due Process Hearings in accordance with New York State regulations.
NYCACS provides in-service training for all NYCACS staff members to ensure the effective implementation of the Student Code of Conduct, as well as the effective implementation of the Health Programs, the School Safety Plan, and other considerations that impact overall student well-being. The Executive Director routinely solicits the recommendations of the staff regarding additional in-service training in these areas.