New Report Details How Schools are Illegally Removing Students with Disabilities  

January 25, 2022
New Report Details How Schools are Illegally Removing Students with Disabilities  

For Immediate Release

Contact:  David Card
202.408.9514 x122
[email protected]

Washington, DC – Schools across the country remove students with disabilities from the classroom using illegal practices known as “informal removals. These off the books dismissals are described in detail in a new report released today by the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) called Out from the Shadows: Informal Removal of Children with Disabilities from Public Schools. 

The report provides examples of children missing entire semesters of instruction after being removed from school because of behaviors related to their disabilities. The practice, coined by NDRN as “informal removal,” refers to an administrative removal of a child from school for a sufficient period of time to constitute a “change of placement” without the necessary legal protections. These are underground suspensions, hidden from data reporting and policy reform efforts.  

“The reality is that we have no idea exactly how many children are removed from school each year because school districts do not include informal removals in reports to the public,” said NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker. “But we do know that our network represents hundreds of such children per year and that these removals hurt them.” 

Federal law requires that children with disabilities who need behavioral services receive them, that they receive at least the same education as other students, and that they are educated with their peers to the maximum extent appropriate. None of this can happen when a child is home during the day without schoolwork, or with a tutor who sees them a handful of hours per week.  

In one school district, three students with diagnoses of autism, were repeatedly sent home because the school didn’t have sufficient teacher’s aide coverage and they were considered “too hard to handle.” One child was not in school for almost a year. The law requires that these children, like all public school students, receive an education, and that an appropriate program or placement be provided to them. 

In another incident included in the report, a six-year-old boy with complex medical needs who exhibited disruptive behaviors at school, such as flopping on the floor while refusing to do work, was only permitted to attend school for one day per week. He was at risk of being removed from his foster home because his foster parents became increasingly frustrated by the shortened school days. 

“Informal removal and lost instructional time have long-term negative economic, health, and community impacts for individual children and their families,” said NDRN Managing Attorney and the report’s primary author Diane Smith Howard. “Federal, state, and local officials must take action to stop the practice of informal removal.” 

The report includes specific recommendations to end the practice of informal removal. They can be found at 

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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.