We all know the feeling. Your phone rings. You look. It’s the school phone number.

A zillion thoughts run through your head as you answer.

child sent home from school

Hi, Mrs. Smith? This is ‘school personnel’ and we need you to come pick up Jacob. Yes, he had quite a tantrum today and he’s really inconsolable. Yes, it’s been going on for at least 45 minutes.”

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Sometimes we’re actually wishing that it was vomiting. Vomiting I understand. Vomiting, I can fix with the pediatrician.

My son keeps getting sent home from school!

I honestly would rather that my kid have an upset stomach and throw up, than have an upset heart and be inconsolable and alone for an hour.

But, it’s common, it’s really, really, really (type in a few more) common.

The School Keeps Sending my Child Home

First, let’s talk about suspensions and kids with IEPs. And you say, “Oh no, they said he wasn’t suspended, I just needed to come pick him up.”


wrong suspension IEP

Off the Books Suspensions

For purposes of removals of a child with a disability from the child’s current educational placement…..

IDEA, 2004.

In the eyes of the law, if your child was asked to leave school, that is a suspension.

The school personnel just either truly doesn’t know this, or they are avoiding regs and paperwork (as far as reporting how many times they suspend kids with IEPs!) by just sending him home.

Going from his placement at school (no matter where that is on the LRE continuum) to home is a placement change.

If you didn’t go through the formal suspension process, it doesn’t matter. Your child was asked to leave school and his/her peers were not. That’s a suspension.

Here is the code. It includes the phrase “For purposes of removals of a child with a disability from the child’s current educational placement.”

That’s what they are doing, removing him from his current placement.

Informal Suspensions

I don’t want to get into the “well why do they do this?” because we could talk all day. I think the main reason is this: Our public schools have been financially starved into failure.

Plain and simple, they simply do not have the resources to staff appropriately and so this is a knee-jerk reaction. They don’t have the resources, the knowledge or the patience to deal with the situation, so they remove the situation. Problem solved!

Except that it’s a very short-term solution. Being out of school when a child is already struggling will only lead to more problems. If you do not identify and fix behavior problems, they will only get worse. And, at the basic level, the child was unhappy at school and was just rewarded for acting out about it.

Don’t like school—>act out—>go home! Yay!

If you haven’t heard of Ross Greene and you are having this problem, you need to become a follower of his. He sums it up well, below:

YouTube video

Why are they asking you to pick up your child from school?

Why are they calling you? 99.9% of the time, I bet that it’s undesirable or inappropriate behavior. Right?

Well, then address the behavior! And not by sending the child home. That punishes no one except the parents!

Is your child diagnosed with a disability? Even if the school system is not deemed to have “knowledge” of a disability, parents can request an evaluation when their child is being suspended or expelled, which must be expedited. (§ 1415(k)(5)(D) In that case, however, the child must remain in whatever placement is determined by the school pending the outcome of the evaluation.

All behavior tells you something.

What is this behavior telling you? Without even knowing your kid, I can guess 3 things:

  1. Child does not have an IEP and needs one
  2. Has insufficient IEP
  3. Has appropriate IEP but is not being followed

Then it’s up to parents and the team to go back and revisit the IEP and adjust accordingly.

Other IEP items to consider:

If the child has a 1:1 aide, where was this person? There is no “well, they were at lunch.” If the child is to have a 1:1 all day, that means all day.

What happens if I refuse to pick up my child from school?

First, know your child. Do they have acting out behaviors? Crippling anxiety? Do you really think that you need to come get them? Go with your gut.

On the phone (and always follow up in writing/email) be very clear that you are not coming to get him/her, and you want the situation de-escalated.

De-escalation does NOT include in school suspensions, calling the police, or in most cases, restraint and seclusion.

Ask to speak to an appropriate person. This would be the teacher, LEA, etc. and NOT the office administrator or someone else who is not a part of your child’s IEP team.

If the child is not sick, and not an imminent danger to himself or others, there isn’t much they can do if a mother refuses to pick up a child from school.

Make your concerns very clear, follow up in writing. Here are some examples of what to say. Pick what is appropriate to your situation.

  • “Hmmm, sounds like his behavior plan is either not being followed or not working. I guess I will request an IEP meeting.
  • “Well, as you know, I have been asking for an FBA for quite some time. Perhaps we can get that prioritized? I will follow up with another written request.”
  • “Well his behavior plans states xyz, was that done? And he still escalated?”

And of course, you know your child best.

It’s really where the rock meets the hard place, you know? You don’t want your child to make acting out their default behavior. But, home needs to be their soft place to land.

Schools do inflict trauma on kids in some situations. Only you can make the right decision of whether or not you should come get your child.

I’m just telling you that unless the child has a contagious illness or weapons or drugs or has threatened bodily harm…you don’t have to. The choice is yours.

Retaliation for Not Picking up Child from School

Bottom line is, they should not retaliate. However, in real life, that doesn’t always happen. The school may or may not still choose to call CPS, the police, the SRO, a mental crisis hotline and other similar sources. In these instances, much as you don’t want to, you may have to pick up the child this time and work on preventing future situations.

Is this a pattern? Is this the first time you’ve been called or the 50th? Document each and every situation. If you choose to go get them, here are some pointers.

Sign them out. Yes, go into the office just as if you were signing the child out for a doctor appointment. Sign them out. State the reason: ‘School called me to come pick up.’

School Sending Child Home: Prevention Tips

Things you should ask for:

Things mom and dad should do:

  • Educate yourself on IEPs and discipline. The rules are different and you need to know what to do.
  • Be solution oriented, beyond picking up the child from school.
  • Think long term. Behavior modification takes time. Be patient.

If you have time…you need to go down the rabbit hole. What I mean by that–read each of those bolded hyperlinks that I have provided you in this post. It’s a very complex issue. There’s not one IEP issue that can be solved in one blog post.

All the IEP issues relate to each other and you have to educate yourself.

As I always say, “The knowledge base I wish I didn’t have to have!”

Exceptions: Sometimes there are exceptions to the discipline policy. These situations may include drugs, weapons, guns, extreme violence and/or bodily injury to another person or staff. In those cases, do not delay and do not try to handle this on your own. You need an attorney.

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