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Ryan does not believe that being removed from his former classroom as a result of
his behavior gave him incentive to change his behavior. Ryan felt deeply misunderstood
and betrayed by his school’s refusal to address the root causes of his behavior, which was
bullying from his peers. Further, he never felt that his former school was able to engage
with him in a way that was socially and emotionally appropriate for him. Instead of
engaging Ryan, his former school was only concerned with minimizing his behaviors and
the impact of his behavior in the classroom. Ryan is passionate about telling his story to
express to schools that they cannot treat exceptional students like him as if they are any
less important than other students.
Ultimately, school districts need to shift their mode of operation to best serve
students and the learning environment. This will require, as Ryan thoughtfully proposed,
an underlying emphasis on acting always in the best interests of the student. Students who
act in ways that violate codes of conduct should be understood as experiencing challenges
socially and emotionally that should be addressed appropriately. Moreover, students should
not be labeled as exhibiting bad or problematic behaviors, and especially should not be
labeled as a “disruption.” Ryan is happy with his choice to transfer, but he believes it is
perhaps not always the most ideal environment for him. Although at a new school, Ryan
still feels that his school district’s policies make it continuously difficult for him to voice
and define his own educational needs. While Public Act 099-0456 is a shift in the right
direction, and may result in fewer suspensions and expulsions, it is a good step in ensuring
that students like Ryan can access the resources that will help support them in an inclusive
classroom environment. Exceptional students like Ryan are an asset to any learning
environment if they are given the proper social, emotional, and educational support.
Schools need to realize this, and shift their disciplinary paradigm to serve the needs of
students like Ryan.
105 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/10-22.6(a),(b-20) (West 2015).
105 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/10-20.14(a-5) (as amended) (West 2015).
U.S. DEP’T OF EDUC. OFF. FOR CIVIL RIGHTS , SNAPSHOT: SCHOOL DISCIPLINE, ISSUE BRIEF NO. 1, (Mar.
Claudia G. Vincent & Tary J. Tobin, The Relationship Between Implementation of School-Wide Positive
Behavior Support (SWPBS) and Disciplinary Exclusion of Students With Various Ethnic Backgrounds With
and Without Disabilities, 19 J. OF EMOTIONAL AND BEHAV. DISORDERS, 217, 218 (2011),
Jacob Williams et al., Avoiding the Threat: An Exploratory Study into a Theoretical Understanding of the
De Facto Segregation of Students with Disabilities, 99 NASSP BULL. 233, 244 (2015),
Pamela A. Fenning & Miranda B. Johnson, Developing Prevention-Oriented Discipline Codes of Conduct,
36 CHILD. LEGAL RTS. J. 2016) [forthcoming Apr. 2016).]