Any time your child is disciplined at school, you should get involved. Getting involved early can help prevent serious disciplinary action like suspension, expulsion or legal charges.
As a parent, you should always understand why your child is being disciplined. Also, you should know the rules about suspensions and expulsions. The rules depend on your child’s age and if they have a disability.
Suspension and expulsion for children with disabilities
If your child receives special education services like an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan, or if you think your child has a disability, there are limits on suspension and expulsion.
If your child has an IEP or a 504 plan, the school must have a special meeting before starting a suspension or expulsion lasting more than 10 days. This special meeting is called a “Manifestation Determination Review.” If the school does not invite you to a Manifestation Determination Review and you think your child has a disability, you should ask for a Manifestation Determination Review.
At the Manifestation Determination Review, the school’s special education team meets to decide if your child’s disability is the behavior’s cause. If the school decides the disability is the behavior’s cause, the school cannot suspend your child for more than 10 days for most offenses. However, if the offense involves drugs, weapons or serious physical injury to someone else, then the school can suspend your child for more than 10 days.
Expulsion is very serious. If your child has a disability, and the school tries to expel your child, you should contact a lawyer.
Suspension and expulsion in the 3rd grade and below
If your child is in the 3rd grade or below, they can only be suspended or expelled if they:
- Make a bomb threat or bring a knife or firearm to school.
- Do something that would be a crime if an adult did it, and they cause serious physical injury to someone else.
If your young child is suspended or expelled for one of these reasons, the school must:
- Consult with a mental health professional. They must decide if your child needs mental health services.
- Follow the suspension or expulsion rules for older children. The school follows the same rules that apply to students in grades 4 and above. Keep reading below for more details.
Suspensions in the 4th grade and above
If your child receives an out-of-school suspension, the school must give you written notice. The notice will state the reason for suspension. Also, the school will schedule an informal hearing for the next school day.
If your child says they are suspended, and the school does not schedule a hearing, you should immediately request a meeting to discuss the suspension. Send your request in writing.
At the hearing, you can ask questions about the suspension. If you think the suspension is inappropriate discipline, you can challenge the suspension and suggest alternative discipline.
The school can suspend your child for up to 10 days in a single school year. If the school wants to suspend your child for more than 10 days, the school must review your child’s history to determine if a disability causes their behavior.
Your child has the right to make up school work they miss during suspension. However, the student may receive partial credit only. Ask your child’s teacher how they can make up missed school work to avoid falling behind.
Expulsions in the 4th grade and above
Expulsions are very serious. They can have a long-term impact on your child’s learning and development.
Students can be expelled from school for up to 80 days for serious behavioral issues, or up to one year if the student brings a gun or knife to school, makes a bomb threat or commits a crime that results in serious physical harm to another person or property. Students ages 16 years or older can be permanently expelled if they are convicted in court of a serious criminal offense.
If the school plans to expel your child, the school must:
- Notify you within one day of the discipline.
- Invite you to a hearing with the superintendent within 5 days of notifying you.
Before the hearing, you should:
- Talk to your child. Have an honest conversation to make sure you understand what happened.
- Read the code of conduct. Read the school’s handbook or code of conduct to understand which rules your child is accused of breaking.
- Review your child’s record. You have the right to review your child’s permanent school record. If the suspension is the result of more than one discipline event, it may be helpful to review the record.
- Find witnesses. You can bring witnesses to the hearing. Witnesses can be other students or teachers who saw the incident. Also, you can ask adults like your child’s therapist, coach or pastor to discuss your child’s general behavior.
At the hearing, you may challenge the expulsion. Expulsion is serious and can be difficult to challenge on your own. If your child is being expelled, you should contact a lawyer as soon as you receive a hearing notice.
After the hearing, the school shares their decision within one day. If the school decides to expel your child, the school must tell you in writing how to appeal the decision. Appeals go to the Board of Education.
Children ages 6 to 18 years old must attend school. If a child misses school, they are “truant.” Your child is considered habitually truant if they:
- Miss more than 30 hours of school in a row
- Miss more than 42 hours of school in a month
- Miss more than 72 hours of school in a year
If your child is habitually truant, the school must invite you to a meeting. At the meeting, you and school staff create an intervention plan to make sure your child attends school.
It is important to help your child follow the intervention plan. If your child does not follow the intervention plan, they can be charged with delinquency in court. Delinquency is a misdemeanor. As the parent, you can be charged with “failure to send,” which is also a misdemeanor.
If you or your child are charged, you have the right to an attorney to represent you. You should ask the court to appoint an attorney if you cannot afford one.
If you believe that disability or behavioral problems cause your child’s truancy, and the school is not willing to work with you, consider contacting a lawyer.