Decriminalizing Students with Disabilities

59 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2009 Last revised: 9 Nov 2009

See all articles by Dean Hill Rivkin

Dean Hill Rivkin

University of Tennessee College of Law


Despite the enactment of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975, students with disabilities have been disproportionally singled out for school exclusion and “push-out” through disciplinary actions, inadequate educational programs, and criminal prosecution. In Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305 (1988), the United States Supreme Court condemned the disciplinary exclusion of students for behaviors that were manifestations of the students’ emotional disabilities. Criminal prosecution of students for disability-related behavior was curbed in the case of Morgan v. Chris L., 927 F. Supp. 267 (E.D. Tenn 1994), aff’d 106 F.3d 401 (6th Cir. 1997). This article examines the Chris L. litigation, the subsequent legislative changes made to the IDEA, and recent, related litigation. The article calls for a universal halt to criminalizing students - all students - for minor school-related misconduct .

Keywords: students, disabilities, school, criminalization

Suggested Citation

Rivkin, Dean Hill, Decriminalizing Students with Disabilities. New York Law School Law Review, Vol. 54, 2010, University of Tennessee Legal Studies Research Paper No. 78, NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 09/10 #5, Available at SSRN:

Dean Hill Rivkin (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States
865.974.1481 (Phone)

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