My child has been suspended–now what?

If you have children, hopefully this newsletter never applies to you. But recently, there has been a uptick in the number of vaping-related offenses occurring in schools, oftentimes requiring legal representation. If your child is suspended, it is helpful to know the law as to what the school can and cannot do and what rights you have as a parent. And you have additional rights if your child has a disability.

Short-term suspensions are those up to 10 days in length and are typically decided by the school principal or other building administrator. If the suspension exceeds 10 days, however, or if the school district decides to extend the short-term suspension into a long-term suspension, the family must receive 1) oral and written notice of the offense, charges, and evidence to support the consequence; 2) an opportunity for a hearing; and 3) the right to participate in the hearing with representation. These hearing decisions must be conveyed in writing to the family and include a right to appeal.

If your child has a disability and the school is recommending a long-term suspension, within 10 days, the school must first hold a manifestation determination review (MDR) to determine if the conduct causing the offense is a result of the student’s disability. If it is, then the student cannot be suspended, although in certain serious infractions, the school can require the student to attend an alternative school for up to 45 days.

I recently represented a student whose school district imposed a long-term suspension, without affording her any due process rights. By the time the family contacted me, the student had already missed 22 days of school. While we were able to overturn the suspension, the damage to that point had been done. Had the parents known of their right to a hearing before the 11th day, their daughter would not have missed so much school and fallen behind in her classes.