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Facts From NLTS2: School Behavior and Disciplinary Experiences of Youth With Disabilities

NLTS 2200603
March 2006

Disability Category Differences in Students' Behavior and Disciplinary Actions8

Although some youth in every disability category exhibit problem behaviors and experience disciplinary actions at school, there is substantial variation across categories (table 1). For example, 61 percent of youth with emotional disturbances are reported to argue in class, compared with 42 percent of students with learning disabilities, 40 percent of those with autism, and one-third or fewer of youth with speech, hearing, or visual impairments or deaf-blindness. Similarly, two out of five youth with emotional disturbances are reported to have difficulty controlling problem behavior in class, compared with one-fifth or fewer of those with learning disabilities, speech, hearing, visual, or orthopedic impairments, or deaf-blindness.

Students with emotional disturbances are significantly more likely to have been suspended or expelled in one school year or over their school careers than youth in all other disability categories. In fact, they are 27 percentage points more likely to have received disciplinary actions in one school year and 32 percentage points more likely ever to have been suspended or expelled than those in the next most frequently occurring category—youth with other health impairments. More than three out of five youth with emotional disturbances (63 percent) have experienced disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions, in one school year, with an average of seven disciplinary incidents. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) have been suspended or expelled during their school careers.

Youth with other health impairments, the disability category that includes students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when it is a primary disability, also have relative high rates of receiving disciplinary actions in one school year (36 percent) or ever (41 percent). Their single-year rate of disciplinary actions is significantly higher than the rate of youth in 7 of the 11 other disability categories, 9 and their rate of suspensions or expulsions over their school careers is significantly higher than the rate of youth in all other categories except emotional disturbance.

From 27 percent to 33 percent of youth with learning disabilities, mental retardation, or traumatic brain injuries are reported ever to have been suspended or expelled and 13 percent to 18 percent of those with visual, orthopedic, speech/language or hearing impairments, autism, multiple disabilities and deaf-blindness are reported to have done so.

8 The terminology for classifying students who receive special education services that is used here is specified in federal regulations for the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (P.L. 105-17), 111 Stat. 37-157 (Knoblauch and Sorenson 1998).
9 Other than students with emotional disturbances, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, or mental retardation.