Discipline Disparities for Students with Disabilities and the Impact on Students with TS

The Tourette Association through its programs and services works directly with schools and school districts to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions on children with Tourette as well as to do away with seclusions and restraints for students with TS. Through Tourette Association’s support, federal guidelines could be established to end the use of corporal punishment in schools.

On March 2018, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on the use of discipline, including the prevalence of seclusion and restraint in K-12 public schools. Students with disabilities, boys, and students of color experience these actions disproportionately.  (Source: Federal Data and Resources on Restraint and Seclusion)

When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) with was reauthorized in 2006, Tourette Syndrome was added under the definition of Other Health Impaired (OHI). (Source:  IDEA 300.8 (c)(9)) In the analysis of comments and changes it is stated that “Including Tourette Syndrome in the definition of other health impairment may help correct the misperception of Tourette Syndrome as a behavioral or conduct disorder and prevent the misdiagnosis of their needs.” (Source: Analysis of Comments and Changes 46550)

Many students with TS continue to be punished for involuntary symptoms caused by their disorder, including uncontrolled vocalizations and body movement, difficulty with attention and focus, and impulsivity. The possible negative impact of suspensions, expulsions, restraints, seclusions and corporal punishment for students with TS, include:

  • Stress and anxiety which can exacerbate symptoms of TS.
  • Violent responses to avoid restraints.
  • Short and/or long term social and psychological consequences.
  • Increased obsessive compulsive symptoms, fears and anxiety.
  • Interruption to learning process.
  • Resistance to attend school/increased dropout rate.
  • Increase in oppositional and confrontational behaviors at school and at home.

The Tourette Association and its national Medical Advisory Board and Education Advisory Board long held that there is no benefit of corporal punishment in the school setting and should be prohibited. In fact, inappropriate and coercive interventions are in direct conflict with IDEA’s stated support of positive behavioral interventions when dealing with behaviors that interfere with the educational process. Numerous evidence-based strategies can be used in schools to manage disruptive behavior and to avoid the use of seclusion and or restraint, such as Multi-tier System of Supports (MTSS), Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) as led by the Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

The Tourette Association supports the use of positive behavior interventions, as was intended by IDEA, and the use of best practices in all phases of behavior management in all settings.

Based on the information provided by the GAO, the TAA supports the development and establishment of federal guidelines that would put an end to the use of corporal punishment. Moreover, we endorse the development of clear and concise restrictions, guidelines, training and monitoring requirements regarding the use of suspensions, expulsions, restraints and seclusion for children with disabilities.