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Behavioral Intervention Plans: When Do You Need One?


If your child acts out at school and breaks school rules, he or she may be subject to removal from the school or other special programs. While in many cases, a school has discretion to prohibit student participation in programs, if the child is part of a special education program, the school will have an obligation to provide a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) to determine if the wrongful behavior was related to a disability.

In May of this year, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Education (VDOE) published plans to hold 5 multi-day training sessions detailing how to conduct the FBA and how to subsequently develop an applicable Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP). If a school fails to appropriately administer and implement these processes, you should seek legal counsel.

A Functional Behavioral Assessment Is Required As Part Of Your Child’s Individualized Education Plan

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), a student qualifying for special education and an individualized education plan (IEP) has a right to a FBA for behavioral misconduct. If the FBA shows that the child’s actions are related to his or her disability, then the child cannot be removed from the program but rather members of the IEP team must develop a BIP.

The VDOE has developed guidelines regarding when and how to administer the FBA highlighting the following steps:

  • Verify the seriousness of the problem behavior
  • Define the problem behavior
  • Collect information on the reasons behind the behavior
  • Analyze information collected on the problem behavior
  • Develop a hypothesis about the function of the behavior
  • Verify the hypothesis

Once the team has pinpointed the cause of the behavioral problem, they then must develop the BIP. The VDOE guidelines provide that the next steps regarding development and implementation of the plan are:

  • Develop and implement a BIP
  • Evaluate the fidelity of the BIP
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the BIP
  • Modify the BIP

It is the aim of the guidelines to help educators change student behavior in a positive and significant way; however, sometimes educators fail to properly implement these requirements.

What Can You Do If Your Child Is Removed From School Without Receiving A Functional Behavioral Assessment

Neither federal nor Virginia law speaks to additional requirements of the FBA and the BIP, and the VDOE has adopted a policy that essentially mandates that the BIP be treated with the same seriousness as the IEP. Accordingly, if you feel that your child is entitled to a FBA and subsequent BIP, you have legal recourse.

An experienced attorney can help you resolve a dispute by requesting a due process hearing, advocating for you in mediation or filing a formal complaint with the VDOE.

Our Leesburg Special Education Law Attorneys Will Be Your Advocate

If you suspect your child should have been provided with a functional behavioral assessment rather than being removed from his or her special education program, please contact the offices of Whitbeck, Cisneros, McElroy PC to learn what steps you need to take to ensure your child is getting the education they have a right to. Under federal law your child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education and our experienced Leesburg special education law attorneys know how to help you hold educators responsible for that duty.


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Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC maintains an office in Loudoun County in the Town of Leesburg. We welcome inquiries from throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond.

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