education lawyer

Legal Steps To Take After A Suspension Notice

  • By Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, PLLC
  • 5

Facing a suspension notice can be overwhelming for both students and parents. Did you know that even a single suspension increases the likelihood of future misconduct and can lead to lower graduation rates and increased involvement in the juvenile justice system? This is according to the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. Below, an education lawyer will guide you through the necessary legal steps to take after receiving a suspension notice, ensuring you know your rights and how to protect them.

Understanding Suspension Types

Schools may suspend students for violating the schools Discipline Code. Suspensions can range from a principal’s suspension (up to 10 days) to a superintendent’s suspension (11 days to one year). Here’s what you need to know:

  • Principal’s Suspension: Up to 10 days, with alternate instruction provided during regular school hours, after school hours, or at an alternate school site. Parents have the right to an informal conference with the principal within 5 days to discuss or contest the suspension.
  • Superintendent’s Suspension: From 10 days to one year, requiring a formal hearing within 5 days of the incident.

Immediate Steps After Receiving A Suspension Notice

1. Review The Notice Carefully

  • You should first receive a Notice of Intent to Suspend/Expel, followed by an actual Notice of Suspension/Expulsion. Review these notices carefully. Check the alleged infractions against the student handbook and school policies.
  • Pay close attention to appeal deadlines. This is the time to contact an attorney if you plan to use one.

2. Get The ‘Suspension Packet’ From The Student’s School

  • This packet includes written statements from the student and any witnesses, the incident report, the student’s records, and any other evidence the school plans to use at the hearing. Schools are required to provide this information before the hearing, but parents will need to ask for it.

Preparing For The Suspension Hearing

3. Decide On A Strategy For The Hearing

  • Students can contest the charges or plead “no contest.” If pleading no contest, they give up the right to a hearing, and the charges will be sustained.
  • If the student has committed the act and the school can prove the charges, consider pleading no contest. Review the suspension packet carefully for inconsistencies that could cast doubt on the school’s version of events.

4. Attend The Suspension Hearing

  • Arrive early, as students are often seen in the order of arrival. If proceeding with the hearing, the school must show that the student committed the alleged act. The school must have a witness who saw the incident, unless the student admitted to the act in their statement.
  • The student can present their own witnesses and ask the hearing office in advance to subpoena witnesses, including school staff. The hearing officer will ask the school and parent for a recommendation regarding the suspension length.

After The Hearing

5. Wait For The Decision

  • The hearing officer can either dismiss or sustain the charges. The parent will receive a phone call or letter within 2 school days of the hearing with the decision, including the length of the suspension, the alternate school site, and whether the student can apply for early reinstatement. Within 5 days, the parent will receive a letter with the hearing officer’s full findings.

Appealing The Decision

6. What If You Don’t Agree With The Superintendent’s Suspension Decision?

  • If the student contested the charges, they can appeal the suspension to the School Board.

Rights And Responsibilities During Suspension

  • Students are entitled to academic instruction at a grade-appropriate level during suspension. They should start attending the alternate site as soon as they receive notice of the suspension, or they will be marked absent.
  • Complete All Assignments While Out of School
    • In some states, schools must give students at least 50% credit during an out-of-school suspension. Completing assignments shows that the student is capable and motivated to continue learning, which can help in the appeal hearing.

Legal Protections For Students With Disabilities

  • Federal law grants legal protections to students with disabilities during suspensions or other disciplinary proceedings. Schools may not suspend disabled students for more than 10 days without first holding a meeting, called a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR), to decide if the behavior was caused by the student’s disability as our friends at K Altman Law can explain.

Dealing with a suspension notice requires understanding your rights and following the correct procedures. Review the suspension notice carefully, gather necessary documents, decide on a strategy, and attend the hearing prepared. If you disagree with the decision, remember that you have the right to appeal. Stay engaged in your education during the suspension, and seek legal advice if necessary to navigate this challenging time effectively.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your child’s rights are protected and that they have the best possible outcome during a suspension.

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