New York Times article stirs controversy, raises questions


Description of FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) found in the Oregon General Supervision Framework.

Recently, an article in The New York Times reflected poorly on both Roseburg High School and the entire district. New York Times reporter Erica Green argued that dismissing a disabled student from school repeatedly due to behavioral issues deprives them from a fair education. Her article included the story of two disabled students from different schools in different states, and detailed how the schools dealt with their behavior. 

In her article, Green implies that Roseburg High School utilyzes illegal practices when removing students from school, which creates a negative misconception. This article covers the Roseburg School District’s practices, what makes a removal legal and illegal, how RHS and RSD provide a fair education, and the underlying issues within special education.

Early dismissal, multiple suspensions, and referrals are all considered informal removals under certain circumstances. Informal removals are described as an excessive use of dismissals that constitute a change of placement and, according to Green, “schools secretly and sometimes illegally use to remove challenging students with disabilities from class.” 

The article and the National Disability Rights Network states that informal removals go against anti-discrimination laws. Specifically IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It is a statute that establishes free appropriate public education in schools across the United States. Removals are illegal if they violate IDEAs procedures. For example, not informing the parent of a removal violates IDEAs procedures. It is made clear that Roseburg High does not practice informal removals because the school disciplines students with disabilities while following the rules.

Informal removals are not something Roseburg High School does

First and foremost, Erica Green’s article made it appear that the parent was rarely notified when their disabled student was removed. Hence, those who read the NYT article might believe that Roseburg High School removes disabled students informally. Green also said schools are not required to report informal removals in the same manner as formal suspension and expulsions. This is simply not the case because all removals at Roseburg High School are documented by law. The district and Roseburg High School makes sure parents are notified and are heavily involved when their child violates school conduct. 

For example, when a disabled student is dismissed repeatedly or the school changes the child’s placement due to a violation, the student’s IEP team will conduct a manifestation determination review within ten days. This is because if the school were to exceed the ten day limit, then the removals would be considered a change of placement, and changes of placement actively exclude disabled students from the general education curriculum. IEP is an acronym for Individual Education Program where eligible students have a plan to ensure a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE requirements can be found in Roseburg school district’s board policies. The Roseburg Public school’s board policy requires administration to document removals, but restraints and seclusions as well.

According to Roseburg School District Director of Student Services, Melissa Roberts, the law requires parental involvement in every part of the process. According to Roberts, “It says we have to specifically tell the student why they are leaving and how it violates school policy and district policy. We have to review that with the parent, we also have to follow up with a written notice.” 

The district and all schools have to document every suspension and the parent has to be notified when their child is suspended. This happens in person, not just through a phone call. Removing a disabled student is a big process and the parents are always involved. Therefore, it can not constitute an informal removal or “off-the-book” when it would be very difficult to exclude the parent from the process.

Abbreviated school days are not a form of misconduct

It is also important to note that having to “earn” a full day is a part of the Oregon process. There are reasons why abbreviated programs are implemented. In the case of abbreviated days, if the team believes shortening a student’s day will help them progress in their goals or the nature of their disability warrants it, they can implement it with parental consent. The parent and administrative team determine this, or a parent works with the IEP team if the student is on an individualized education plan. An IEP team consists of: parents, special education teachers or providers, one or more of a child’s regular education teachers if they’re participating in general education, and a representative of the school system. 

In an interview with Principal Jill Weber and Assistant Principal Brad Bogardus, Dr. Weber gave her insight on why they’d abbreviate a student’s school day. “It wasn’t as if you get to this point you’ll get this reward. It is more of a “are you growing in the skills necessary so you can be successful with increased time.” 

More importantly, the district uses abbreviated day programs very sparingly and only if it’s necessary. Melissa Roberts reported that there are 758 students on IEPs and 13 students on abbreviated days in Roseburg schools. This is out of the over 5,000 students that attend the Roseburg school district. It should also be noted that many students are on abbreviated programs due to terminal illness and significant trauma, not only because behavioral needs that put others or themselves at risk.

Behavioral support plans are effective. Sometimes, all a student needs is some positive reinforcements.

— SpEd teacher, Christopher Hubbard

Why disabled students can be removed 

 In the case of disciplinary removals, school personnel have to take the other students’ education into account as well. Assistant Principal Brad Bogardus said, “if it comes to where it is ultimately unsafe for staff, students, or the student causing the disruption, that’s when we look at a removal.” 

That being said, the school does not just remove a disabled student to fix the problem. There are class modifications, behavioral support plans, and functional behavioral assessments, and manifestation determination reviews in place for students on an IEP and disabled students who have been expelled or suspended.

Teachers are involved in a student’s life

In a separate interview, various special education teachers at Roseburg High School gave their insight on teaching disabled students. Mr. Hubbard described how he helps difficult students in his class succeed. “Behavioral support plans are effective. Sometimes, all a student needs is some positive reinforcements. This can be done with a daily check in. Sometimes teachers have great rapport with certain students. I have a student who comes to me if they need help. This kind of help can range from emotional regulation to academic help, and sometimes it can be something like just needing a shoulder to cry on.”

In addition to this, the title of Green’s article, “How Educators Secretly Remove Students With Disabilities From School ” is problematic. It implies that educators are the ones who wrong disabled students with behavioral issues, when on the contrary, they are society’s hidden heroes. It blatantly disregards the hard work and effort special education teachers put into teaching. Furthermore, it’s the administration who has the authority to remove a student. It is understandably frustrating for both the parents because they’re often left to provide the extra help their children may need. However, thrusting the student back into an unstable learning environment is unwise, not only for the student, but the ill-prepared teacher as well. It is unfair to lob the blame onto the educators who cannot put up with a student’s disruptive behavior.

Removals, restraint, and abbreviated days are not done out of convenience

Removals, restraint, and shortened school hours are not the easy way out for district officials. A restrictive environment is the last thing Roseburg High School wants for their students; instead they think of what staff can do to keep them there. They always consider least restrictive placements before abbreviated school days or home-bound placements. Also, students’ placements are never permanent and change as the student develops skills, grows more mature, receives instruction, and learns valuable social skills. When asked what actions are taken to get rid of the incentive for removals, Dr. Weber said, “I think it comes to supporting the people in the building with the training, the plans, the teamwork to help support students to be successful. I believe all students want to be successful, they want to feel good about being in school and staff want to do that as well.” That is why it is so important to have strong plans, such as behavioral support plans, in place in order for students to succeed. 

In addition to this, the title of Green’s article, “How Educators Secretly Remove Students With Disabilities From School ” is problematic. It implies that educators are the ones who wrong disabled students with behavioral issues, when on the contrary, they are society’s hidden heroes.

— Seira Lee

Restraint and seclusion 

Another topic to address is restraint and seclusion. The Roseburg School District only resorts to restraint if the authority is concerned about the students safety or the safety of others. Information on removals and seclusion can be found in the board policies. There is certified training called Crisis Prevention Intervention, CPI focuses on preventing challenging behaviors and how to intervene or de-escalate risky situations. One of the biggest things CPI teaches is strategies to use beforehand so educators don’t have to put their hands on students. Calming students down with their words, actions, as well as using the environment around them. The school is required to report all restraint and seclusions used in a school year to make sure they complied with the policies and procedures. Overall, these safety responses are only used if necessary and are rarely done improperly.

Funding was barely mentioned

The underlying issue that the article failed to address in detail is funding and lack of resources. Even though educators go above and beyond to provide disabled students and equitable education, more resources would provide even better educational opportunities. Underfunding, staffing shortages and lack of qualified staff is a nationwide issue. If schools are going to provide the American dream to all students, regardless of disability, or severity of disruptive behavior, it’s going to be costly. One-on-one tutors that are qualified to teach disabled students are hard to come by.

Melissa Roberts says, “I would love to develop programming and staffing more people. Because we know the more adults you have in a classroom supporting a student, the more rich instruction and conversation they can have. We have a national shortage for school psychologists–and it has been that way for the last four years. For special ed teachers there is a national shortage right now.”  

Moreover, the school has to find effective instructional assistants, too. Dr. Weber says, “I’ve had an open instructional assistant position for three years that I’ve never been able to fill. I have money set aside to pay people, but I can’t find the right people to be in those positions and to train those people, and to have them stay so I can keep [the positions] filled.” She expressed how proper training and qualified people are just as important in the staffing crisis as the number of staff. Funding for schools across the state is pretty inequitable since some areas have higher net incomes than others.

To combat the dilemma of limited resources, they train staff with pamphlets, outlines, emails, videos, and shared documents the  staff can access. Mr. Hubbard said special education teachers are taught how to develop IEPs, conduct effective IEP meetings, conduct functional behavioral analysis, and academic and behavioral interventions. They have training throughout the year that is given by special education teachers. These trainings involve knowledge for special education students when it comes to staying in compliance with federal and state laws and helping these students be successful. School funding is inequitable across the state, so if all schools were made to be suited to deal with those kinds of situations, they’d need a lot more funding for tutors and qualified professionals.  


All in all, Roseburg High School is dedicated to providing a high quality education for its students. The staff is committed to providing a safe, nurturing and supportive environment where all students can learn, not tolerating any form of abuse, neglect or mistreatment of children in their custody. The administration is never pleased when a student has to be placed into a restrictive environment. Shortened school days and homebound placement is not an ideal situation for a student to be in. This article was meant to draw attention to the fact that there are two sides to every story, and they are equally important. Readers should always seek out both sides before making any decisions or judgment.

A more in-depth article on rules and regulations regarding special education can be found here —> (Rules and Regulations Regarding Disability).