SCHOOL Suspension and Expulsion

Suspension is a short-term disciplinary action where a child is removed from a classroom for up to ten days. It can be an out-of-school suspension where the child may not be physically present in the school building, and the supervision of whom rests on the parent or guardian. An in-school suspension moves the child to another room or office and is supervised by the school staff.

Expulsion is a much more serious situation. It is the most serious disciplinary action a school district can take.

Since private schools are not required to provide an education for all children, they set their own rules regarding suspensions and expulsions. Public schools are bound by school handbooks, the Board of Education, the state, and in some cases, even the federal government.

The most common causes of expulsion include:
• bringing weapons and knives to school (any student bringing a gun to school must be expelled for a minimum of one year as stated in the federal Gun-Free Schools Act.);

• bringing, buying, and/or selling drugs at school;

• repeated dangerous behaviors, such as fighting and bullying;

• physically assaulting school staff;

• numerous repeated offenses and suspensions.

Important Steps to take when you learn of an impending expulsion

Many of the behaviors that lead to getting expelled from school can also lead to criminal charges. If this is a possibility, even if remote, it is important that you contact an attorney as early as possible. This will give the attorney a chance to provide guidance throughout the process, even during the expulsion hearing. Often, the expulsion hearing could be ruled in favor of your child.

Another thing you should do is to go to the school and obtain the reasons and evidence of why the school is considering expulsion. Note the presence of everyone at the meeting and their titles. Remain calm during the meeting, listen carefully to what is said. Ask questions and make certain that you fully understand the school’s side of the story, how they know that your child did what they claim, and how it meets the criteria for expulsion. You must then have a calm discussion with your child asking for his/her side of what happened. Ask for a copy of the Student’s Handbook. Ensure that your child is provided with support for any emotional, behavioral, or other issues which may be evident from the incident.

The incident and behavior could be indicative of some problem in your child’s life. You may have to consult a specialist (psychiatrist, neurologist, substance-abuse evaluation, behaviorist) to explore intervention.

Child with a disability

Students with disabilities have special rights when facing suspension and expulsion. Schools must first determine if the child’s disability was a cause or a factor in the offensive behavior. Federal and state laws state that the child has a right to a fair hearing. This process will involve hearing the school’s and the child’s understanding of the events leading to the hearing. Your child’s version can be presented by you or someone representing your child (child advocate or an attorney). Again, since expulsion can adversely affect your child’s life, it is important the he/she is represented by some experienced in these matters. This is especially true if your child does not prevail at the hearing.

Appealing a decision. If the result of the hearing is that your child is expelled, you must understand the ensuing process can be difficult. If you have good reason to believe the decision was not correct and was unsupported by the evidence provided at the hearing, you must decide on whether or not you wish to appeal. Guidelines on how to appeal will be provided by the school.

Regardless of what actions you pursue, it is important that your child understands all of the terms of the expulsion. Seek advice if you are unsure of any of the terms. Further, make certain you understand any conditions which must be fulfilled in the school’s re-entry plan.

Above all, make certain your child continues his academic learning to avoid falling behind in school.

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