Shortened School Day

The term “school day” has the same meaning for all students. Students with disabilities have the right to attend school for the same length of time as non-disabled students.

Shortened school days may not be used to manage student behavior.

If a student’s behavior impedes their learning or the learning of others, the IEP must address the behavior by providing the supports and services necessary for the student to successfully participate in school.

The student’s behavioral needs can be met through annual goals, related services, and/or supplementary aides and services. The IEP should include positive behavioral interventions, supports, and strategies that enable the student to participate in the full school day.

Shortened school days may not be used as a type of discipline.

Shortening a student’s time at school is not an acceptable form of punishment. Students also can’t be required to “earn” their way back to a full school day by demonstrating good behavior. The school can’t demand that a student take medication or receive treatment, therapies, or other outside services.

A student may have a disability-related need that requires a modified schedule.

The IEP team could determine that a student needs a shortened school day. For example, a student with a long-term, debilitating medical problem such as cancer, kidney disease, or diabetes may need a class schedule that allows for rest and recuperation. 

A shortened school day should be in place for only a limited amount of time. If the IEP team determines a student needs a shortened school day, a compliant IEP would include:

  1. An explanation of why the student’s unique disability-related needs require a shortened day.
  2. A clear explanation of the unique need or skill gap prohibiting the student from attending a full day of school.
  3. A clear connection to the growth and progress expected to be achieved by shortening the student’s school day (e.g., the student is expected to recover from the physical or medical condition with rest and medical treatment).
  4. A plan for the student’s return to school for a full day, which may include a plan to meet more frequently to review student data and determine whether the student is able to return to school full-time. The student must return to a full school day as soon as he or she is able.

What if we can’t agree?

Parents have the right to disagree with decisions that the school system makes with respect to their child with a disability. Dispute resolution options include: informal discussion, mediation, facilitation, state complaint, and due process hearing.

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