Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Major Professor

Arthur Shapiro, Ph.D.


Behavior, School law, ESE students, Expulsions, Suspensions


This study investigated legal implications of differential disciplinary treatment of special education and non-special education students in K-12 public schools. It focused on interpreting and applying federal and state education legislation by courts and how various judicial decisions affect discipline practices in public school systems, asking if preferential treatment was afforded to students with disabilities through implementation and interpretation of educational legislation.The historical myriad of complex legislation passed before and after inception of Public Law 94-142 in 1975 was studied, exploring relationships between school discipline of children who do and do not receive special education services. Research included review of pertinent books, journal articles, published and unpublished papers, and personal communications with experts in education and law. It identified appellate court cases dealing with school discipline and compared rulings. Law and educ

ation authorities were interviewed. Surveys were developed and administered to discern teachers' understanding of educational legislation. It attempted to formulate a theory addressing consistencies and inconsistencies associated with public school discipline, along with reinforcement of that treatment by the United States court system, offering implications and recommendations for practice and for further research. Emphasizing data collection from primary and secondary documents, this study took a historical perspective.Conclusions indicate that school compliance is directly tied to financial mandates and that school-based personnel have little discretionary power disciplining students with disabilities. School officials are caught between attempts to keep schools safe and complying with federal and state mandates to avoid forfeiting allocated funds. Many teachers feel unsafe at schools attributing that feeling to inability to control students' classroom behavior. Inabilities stem fr

om inequities in consequences for discipline infractions by students with and without disabilities, inequities that have court precedents.Implications are that, based on the number of cases filed on behalf of students without disabilities, parents are seeking similar rights for their children as those of children with disabilities. Numbers indicate cases involving students with disabilities are resolved at lower levels of due process. Inequities are advocated by issuing various mandates and funding/compliance guidelines serving to strip local school districts of their ability to maintain and self-regulate schools.