“State Special Education Laws for Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans” by Perry A. Zirkel

In the article “State Special Education Laws for Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans,” author Perry A. Zirkel discusses the issues of Functional Behavior Assessments (FBAs) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIPs) in the context of state legislation related to Special Education. Zirkel notes that state laws related to FBAs and BIPS vary widely, are often poorly written, and fail to adequately consider the overarching academic and institutional information that has been developed to guide those who utilize them. Zirkel asserts that this lack of appropriate legislation must be addressed by drafting laws that reflect contemporary research and understanding about FBAs, BIPS, and their role in Special Education.

Zirkel points out that those in the classroom who are directly affected by the applicable laws of their state must contend with rules and guidelines that are often complex and even contradictory.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) establishes certain guidelines that must be followed by those drafting state law and those functioning in the classroom, yet the study conducted by Zirkel demonstrated that many state laws (77, according to the author) that are directly related to the convergence of FBAs and BIPS with Special Education students fail to adequately adhere to the IDEA guidelines. This presents a clear problem for classroom teachers and school officials who are tasked with conducting FBAs and developing BIPs, as it is entirely possible to follow their own state laws while failing to adhere to federal law.

The problems that Zirkel discusses in this article are clearly of great concern to anyone considering the idea of entering the field of Special Education. There are already a significant number of laws that guide the behavior and function of educators and administrators; the contradictory laws that Zirkel examines simply make the role of educator in the Special Education context even more challenging, and potentially troublesome, than it needs to be. The primary lessons of this article seem to be that educators must do all they can to make themselves aware of the applicable laws that guide their behavior and function in the classroom, and to also recognize that no matter how well one knows and understand the laws, it is still possible to violate them. This presents a risk that is, at least for now, simply a part of the job that those who are willing to take it must accept when they enter the profession.


Zirkel, P. A. (2011). State Special Education Laws for Functional Behavioral Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans. Behavioral Disorders, 36(4), 262-278