Disabled Students Aren’t Getting Support in School

In Grants Pass, OR, 12-year-old Khloe Warne sat at a table in her mother’s bakery, doing her schoolwork on a laptop and watching anime videos.

Khloe loves school, especially reading. By second grade she was reading at a sixth grade level. However, she only attends school once a week for two hours.

When Khloe threw a desk and fought with other children last year, the district said she needed shorter school days, which her mother attributes to a failure to support her needs. Khloe, who has autism, ADHD, and an anxiety disorder, returned to in-person schooling after the pandemic with no IEP (Individualized Education Program) in place.

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a federally mandated plan that involves parents, teachers, school administrators, service personnel/paraprofessionals, and students (where appropriate) collaborate to develop accommodations, and services for a disabled student.

Not attending school saddens Khloe. It is stressful for her mother Alyssa. Alyssa had to take a leave of absence from her job in order to stay home with her daughter.

According to advocates, schools across the country are removing students with disabilities from the classroom, frequently in response to disruptive behavior, by sending them home or reducing the number of days they are allowed to attend.

Schools say the change is essential to keep students and staff safe and to avoid disruptions. However, parents and advocates say that the shorter days, known as informal removals, constitute discrimination and violations of students civil rights. It is illegal under federal law to deny a child the same education as their peers due to conditions brought on by their disabilities.

This month, Alyssa Warne filed a lawsuit against her daughter’s school and district, alleging disability discrimination. Requests for comment on the case were not returned. In an earlier email, the school director said she couldn’t comment on specific students due to concerns about confidentiality.

In Oregon, a dispute between parents and schools reached a head this spring in the Statehouse. After almost overwhelming passage in the Senate, a bill to limit the use of reduced days is pending in the House of Representatives, effectively giving parents veto power over such a decision. Pressure from school boards and superintendents has harmed the legislation’s chances, according to the bill’s principal sponsor.

Oli Weith who is autistic attends Buckman Elementary, in Portland OR where he is in second grade. His parents moved him to Buckman Elementary after learning that he wouldn’t the same supports as he had in first grade. Unfortunately, Oli’s parents say the school hasn’t been focusing on academics with their son. Instead, he spends his day focusing on life skills in a special education classroom. He has also been leaving school on his own. A janitor found him outside barefoot once, and he has also wandered off into a backyard.

Dan Stewart, the National Disability Rights Network’s managing attorney for education and employment, said he was unaware of any other states with legislation restricting schools’ use of abbreviated days, as Oregon’s measure would. However, a number of states have issued recommendations through their education departments alerting schools that reduced days may constitute discrimination under federal law. The nonprofit advocacy group Disability Rights Oregon filed a lawsuit in 2019 against Oregon schools for using decreased school days. The court-appointed experts who investigated the issue discovered that over 1,000 Oregon students with disabilities, the most of whom are in elementary school, are on shorter schedules.

Disabled students should have access to the resources they require. In the United States, disabled students have the right to a free and appropriate public education. However, schools are frequently ill-equipped to provide services and support. Disabled students belong in school with their peers.


Baumel, Jan “What Is an IEP?” GreatSchools, 8 Mar. 2023, http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/what-is-an-iep/.

Blackwell, William H., and Zachary S. Rossetti. ‘The Development of Individualized Education Programs: Where Have We Been and Where Should We Go Now?’ SAGE Open, vol. 4, no. 2, SAGE Publications, Jan. 2014, p. 2158244014530411, https://doi.org10.1177/2158244014530411.

Miller, Elizabeth. “Students with Disabilities Face Setbacks, Safety Risks as Oregon Special Education Systems Struggle.” OPB, 5 Jan. 2023,


Rush, Claire. “‘She Just Wants a Friend’: Families Push for Full School Days for Children with Disabilities.” AP NEWS, 21 June 2023, apnews.com/article/school-autism-seizure-disability-rights-oregon-5376426f6d9c79852dcc4f4cd962a141.

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