No state shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
-- U.S. Constitution, Amendment XIV, Section 1
It's likely your kids are a lot like most, and pretty well behaved in school. But almost every student will upset a teacher at some point during the school year. Minor discipline issues come up, like tardiness, missing homework, and talking in class. These are often met with a simple time out, classroom discipline, or in-school detention.
But out-of-school suspensions or expulsions have become much more common as a zero tolerence policies have increase due to concerns for school safety. Unfortunately, suspensions and expulsions often stay on your child's permanent school record. As a result this will follow them from school to school, and may even impact on chances for college admission. So they can never escape the incident.
It's important to know your child has legal rights that apply to public school suspensions and expulsion. Every school district has specific rules for school discipline, which all must follow the general principles of federal law that apply.
Prevent the situation from going from bad to worse by ensuring your child is treated legally and fairly in the school discipline process. Do not let the process overwhelm you.
Conduct Causing School Suspension
Students can typically be suspended or expelled for:
- Drug, alcohol or weapons possession
- Violence against students or teachers
- Obscene or vulgar acts or language
- Stealing or destruction of property
- Repeated disruptive behavior
Schools have recently added bullying, hate crimes, sexual harassment and harassment or bullying by electronic means (computers, cell phones) as conduct justifying expulsion.
Student Due Process Rights
An elementary and high school public education is a CHILD'S constitutionally-protected right. So, a student must be given what's called due process before a suspension takes place.
Due process in a school setting, means the accusers have a chance to defend her or himself in a fair and unbiased hearing. This is the law.
This generally means students have a legal right to:
- Know the school's rules ahead of time
- Meaningful notice of the misconduct charged against the student
- An explanation of the evidence against the student
- An opportunity for students to tell their side of the story
Knowledge of School Rules
At the beginning of the school year the school publishings their STUDENT CONDUCT CODE. This handbook is distributed to students at the beginning of each year. Keep it or ask for a new copy if you do not have one. IT'S YOUR RIGHT.
Notice of Misconduct
If your child is being suspended or expelled, you should receive detailed oral or written notice of the charges against your child. The notice should give information specific information about:
- The specific act and/or incidences involved
- The evidence the school district is relying upon
- The exact number of days of suspension, and the specific day the suspension begins and ends
- A specific date, time and location of a hearing where you can appear and challenge the suspension or expulsion. (If it's not there, ASK.)
A school can suspend or expel a student without prior notice or a hearing only if the school officials think the child poses a danger to other students or school property. However the parents or emergency contact needs to be told of the incident as soon as possible.
At an informal hearing, school representatives will present the evidence against your child. You'll then have the opportunity to present evidence in your child's defense.
Students facing suspension have the right to refuse to answer questions from a school official or a police officer without an attorney present, or before they have had a chance to get advice from an adult.
To provide the best support for your child:
- Ask your child, teachers, and other witnesses about the incident before the hearing. Write down their names, their relation, and exactly what they say.
- Ask teachers and students to speak on behalf of your child if you think it will help.
- Make notes about what you want to say at the hearing, or ask an attorney to help represent your child
- Do your best to remain calm and respectful throughout the process
Parents may appeal a suspension decision, however it does need to be done in writing, and following their process. Even if your child has already served out a suspension, you can and should appeal the decision if you think it was unfair. You often need to have documentation, and do not rely on the school for assistance.
You don’t want the punishment to continue on your child's permanent school record.
504/IEP Information & Help
If your child is struggling in school due to a learning disability you may be eligible for a IEP or be allowed to request 504 accommodations, support or services..
Free appropriate public education (FAPE) is the core purpose of our federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004 (IDEA 2004). The intent of FAPE is to ensure that special education programs and related services are designed to meet a child’s unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.
“IEP” stands for Individualized Education Program. It's the first step that needs to be done after determining your child’s eligibility under the IDEA 2004.
The IEP team works on developing, reviewing, and revising your child’s IEP at least once a year – and more often if you are dissatisfied with your child’s lack of progress or feel it needs to be changed. If you’re not satisfied, speak up (and write letters or emails) as often as you feel you need to in order to get results! Don’t wait! And DOCUMENT each request.
Legally the IEP team must include “you” the parent or guardian, plus at least one general education teacher (if your child is in a general education class) and one special education teacher.
In the case of a child only receiving a related service such as speech and language, a speech therapist can replace the special education teacher.
In a case with a hard of hearing child, then a county Deaf & Hard of Hearing Resource specialist can also be requested.
504 Plan Basics
can qualify for 504 plans if they have physical or mental impairments that
affect or limit any of their abilities to:
- walk, breathe, eat, or sleep
- communicate, see, hear, or speak
- read, concentrate, think, or learn
- stand, bend, lift, or work
of accommodations in 504 plans include:
- preferential seating
- extended time on tests and assignments
- reduced homework or classwork
- verbal, visual, or technology aids
- modified textbooks or audio-video materials
- behavior management support
- adjusted class schedules or grading
- verbal testing
- excused lateness, absence, or missed classwork
- pre-approved nurse's office visits and accompaniment to visits
- occupational or physical therapy
of 504 plans is for students to be educated in regular classrooms along with
the services, accommodations, or educational aids necessary. If students
with these plans can't achieve satisfactory academic success, as is determined
by the school in the 504 plan, then alternative settings in the school or private or residential
programs can be considered.
504 Plans vs. IEPs
plan is different from an individual education program (IEP). The main difference is that a 504 plan
modifies a student's regular education program in a regular classroom environment, allowing the student to remain in the regular classroom with their peers. A 504 plan is monitored by classroom teachers. IEP
programs are delivered and monitored by additional school support staff.
parental approval and involvement is required for an IEP, but not for a 504
plan. Full parental participation in the 504 plan process, however, is
important for the student's academic success.
Students with IEPs are also entitled to the additional
protections and services offered by 504 plans. Students with IEPs may benefit
from a 504 plan, for example, if they're moving from a special education classroom setting to a regular classroom.