HONIG, California Superintendent of Public Instruction v. DOE, et al.

By Veronica Smith
• Enacted in 1975
• All schools receiving federal funds must provide equal access to
education as well as one meal a day to all children with
• School districts required to create a system where parents could
argue a school’s decision
• All student’s must be in least restrictive environment
• Before enactment, 1 out of 8 handicapped children were not in
school and many more were in classrooms that did not provide
well for their education
• EAHCA underwent revision and was renamed IDEA in 1990.
The stay put clause from EAHCA is also included in IDEA
• Just less than 1% of school children are being served under IDEA for an
emotional disorder. A 2005 study suggests that just over 20% of children in
school could qualify for a psychiatric diagnosis.
• Many students not receiving adequate services
• 9% of children receiving special education services fall in the category of
emotionally disturbed- 80% of these are boys
• When looking at all 50 states, the emotionally disturbed category shows the
most variance in prevalence rates
• From a 2010 study using 397 emotionally disturbed children:
• Boys who have been physically abused are 50% more likely to show reactively aggressive
behavior- unrelated in girls
• Ethnic minority children who have been physically abused are at risk for reactive aggressive
behaviors- especially younger children
• Physically abused boys with emotional disturbances are at high risk for reactive aggression
while proactive aggression was not related.
• 2002 study with 25 boys with emotionally disturbances and control group of 22
• Two groups did not differ in nonverbal skills
• Only within the emotionally disturbed group were the boys with more errors in recognizing
facial expressions or decoding emotion in voices more likely to hit or push
• Errors in decoding child voices correlated to teasing others
• Teachers did not see a difference in how often others play with a child based on their ability
to identify emotions in faces or voices
• To qualify for services under an emotional disability a student must meet the
• (a) an inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health
• (b) an inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers
or teachers
• (c) inappropriate types of behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances;
• (d) a general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression
• (e) a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or
school problems.
• This category includes children with schizophrenia but excludes those who are
“socially maladjusted”
• The above must be consistent over time and interfere with the child’s ability
to participate in the school environment
• DSM also requires symptoms be seen over a length of time for diagnosis for conditions
such as conduct disorder, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
• First case to reach Supreme Court pertaining to suspension and
expulsion of emotionally disturbed children
• Originally known as Doe v Maher when first tried in October of
1986. Renamed Honig v Doe in November of 1987 when case
was appealed to Supreme Court.
• Honig was the California Superintendent of Instruction
• Doe and Smith are fictional names given to ensure the privacy
of children involved in the case
• Case was filed by California Superintendent, Honig, who was
seeking the court’s support to remove children with severe
emotional and behavioral disorders from school.
• November of 1980 John Doe, 17 years old, assaulted another
student in his school for students with developmental delays.
• His IEP from April of 1980 noted his physically and socially
awkward behavior, low tolerance for frustration, anger
management issues, and impulsiveness. IEP also stated that his
social skills, as well as his ability to deal with frustration, had
been declining.
• John Doe’s physical and speech delays, along with poor
grooming habits had made him the subject of teasing
throughout his school years
• November 6, 1980
• As a direct reaction of teasing from another student, Doe began to
choke the other child and left marks on his neck
• While being taken to the principals office, Doe kicked out a window.
• Doe admitted that his actions had been wrong and was suspended
for 5 days
• Student Placement Committee (SPC) let the mother know that her son
had been recommended for expulsion from school.
• On the final day of the original 5 day suspension the school notified
the mother that the suspension was being extended until the expulsion
proceedings could be completed
• Mother was invited to attend the hearing on November 25th
• John Doe’s family protested school’s decision in writing
• When school would not relent, Doe’s mother sought legal
counsel and brought suit against the local school officials and
state superintendent.
• Judge ruled that the expulsion violated John Doe’s right to a
free and appropriate public education
• SPC hearing was cancelled and school was required to hold an
IEP meeting
• School also required to provide tutoring at home
• Just after, the judge ordered the school to allow Doe to return
to his original school
• Doe missed 5 ½ weeks of school
• School had in records
Identified as emotionally disturbed in second grade in 1976
Had trouble controlling verbal and physical outbursts
Very poor relationships with peers and adults
Physically and emotionally abused as a young child
Above average intelligence
Low self-esteem
Verbal hostility
Academic and social difficulties
Placed in learning center for emotionally disturbed
• Grandparents felt that Jack would receive a better education in a
public middle school and the school agreed to meet their request
• September, 1979- Jack began public middle school on half-day
• IEP made provision for Jack to be in a learning disability group and
emphasized the structure and supervision for placement to be
• Jack was moved to full-day placement for following academic year
• Behavior began to decline once in school full-day. School met with
grandparents and let them know that Jack’s day would be reduced
back to half days if his poor behavior continued. This behavior
included stealing, extorting money from students, and making sexual
• On November 14th, Smith was expelled after making sexual
comments to another student
• SPC committee recommended expulsion
• SPC scheduled hearing for expulsion and increased suspension
to date of hearing
• Smith’s family sought legal counsel and SPC cancelled meeting
and allowed Smith to either return to school half-day or receive
home-based services
• Home-based tutoring was started on December 10th.
• On January 6th, Smith’s IEP team met to explore alternative
placement options
• Smith heard of Doe’s case and decided to intervene
• Claimed that suspensions violated right to free and appropriate
education and rights as set out in EAHCA
• District Judge ruled
• No disciplinary action taken against students for behavior resulting as a
manifestation of disability with exception of 2 and 5 day suspensions
• No change in placement without parental consent until EHA proceedings
• State not allowed to authorize unilateral placement changes
• EAHCA compliance-monitoring system
• Or guideline must be put in place regulating school response to disability
manifestation misconduct
• State must provide services to disabled children when local school is not able
or willing
• Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
• Court reaffirmed original rulings and made some minor
• Reaffirmed that indefinite suspension or expulsion is a change
of placement
• Stay-put provision has no exception clause for dangerous
children and so this invalidated the California Education Code
which allowed for indefinite suspension or expulsion for
disabled children who were found to be dangerous or violent
behaviors as a result of their disability
• Children may not be expelled or suspended for behavior
related to disability
• State required to provide educational services to disabled
children when local public school unable or unwilling
• Bill Honig, California Superintendent of Public Instruction disagreed
with the decision made in Maher v Doe.
• Honig argued that the court’s decision did not line up with the
precedent set by other cases where a danger exception had been
• Honig also claimed that requiring the state to provide education
when a local school is unwilling or unable placed an intolerable
burden on the state.
• Honig argued that the original EAHCA was not to be taken literally
when being applied to dangerous children as it would take away
school’s ability to discipline these children- stated that Congress had
not included this because it should be seen as common sense
• When Honig filed his suit John Doe was 24 and so not eligible for
any services. Jack was 20 and still completing his education, though
he was living in another district.
• The Supreme Court upheld the original ruling
• Children must remain in their current placement while disciplinary
proceedings are underway unless the school and the parents come to
another agreement
• Court did not acknowledge a “dangerousness exception” to the stayput clause of EAHCA
• This is a change of placement.
• No unilateral changes of placement
• In response to Honig’s argument that EAHCA should not be taken
literally for violent children the Court stated that Congress “very much
meant to strip schools of the unilateral authority they had
traditionally employed to exclude disabled students, particularly
emotionally disturbed students, from schools.”
• Schools may use detention, restriction of privileges or suspensions of
up to 10 days.
• If violent misconduct is determined to be unrelated to a child’s
disability they do not have “stay put” rights. These children are
subject to the same discipline as their peers and can be suspended or
• IDEA includes one exception to the 10 day suspension limit. Children
who bring a weapon to school or who are found in possession of,
takes, or solicits, or sells drugs can be expelled for up to 45 days.
This does not require parental agreement.
The student’s guardian can request an alternative placement for the 45 days
IEP team is required to develop a behavior plan
IEP team must complete a functional behavioral assessment
Behavior plan must be implemented
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