One accident or mistake should not ruin your child’s education. Unfortunately, schools throughout the K-12 level along with universities and community colleges have diverse tools and vast discretion to remedy an alleged instance of misconduct. However, having an attorney by your side will help you and your child navigate your school’s disciplinary process and will ensure that your student returns to the classroom as soon as possible.
Due to mounting public pressure to secure schools from drugs, violence, and firearms, many schools have enacted “zero-tolerance policies” that inflict maximum penalties on responsible students. In fact, according to a recent U.S. Department of Education survey of more than 1,000 schools from across the country, 79% of schools enforce “zero-tolerance policies” for alleged acts of violence and 88% enforce “zero-tolerance policies” for possession of drugs. And education institutions from elementary school, through middle school and high school, and up to the college level continue to add more and more prohibited acts to their highly complex codes of student conduct.What Causes a School Disciplinary Proceeding?
A school discipline proceeding may arise due to a lack of understanding, an accident, or an honest mistake. For example, schools may initiate a disciplinary inquiry for these offenses:
- Violence or Threats of Violence
- Possession of Alcohol, Drugs, or Weapons
- Disruptive or Insubordinate Behavior
- Academic Misconduct such as Cheating or Plagiarism
- Improper use of Computers or Technology
Should your student be found responsible, their school may impose a wide array of penalties. In most cases, schools typically separate discipline based on in-school consequences and exclusionary punishments. Examples of in-school consequences include:
- Exclusion or removal that prevents your student from appearing in a particular teacher’s class or activity for up to two days
- Detention that could require your student to stay after school, during lunch-time, or on a Saturday for a period of time, typically seated in a study hall or quiet room
- Revoking your student’s privileges related to participation in Extracurricular Activities, Clubs, and Sports Teams
- Preventing your student from using optional computer or library time
- Imposing extra projects upon your student such as writing an apology letter, completing community service, and paying for lost or damaged property
In addition, your school could impose more severe penalties that involve exclusionary discipline. For example, your school could impose the following exclusionary penalties:
- Short-term suspension that bans your student from school for 10 or fewer school days with some schools assigning students to “in-school suspension” which forces your student to appear at school, keeps them from their regular classroom, and sends them to a study hall or quiet room
- Long-term suspension that bans your student from school for a definite period of time longer than 10 days, but less than 1 semester or trimester during the current school year
- Expulsion that bans your student from school for a length of time up to 1 semester or trimester
- Emergency Removal which occurs when your student’s conduct allegedly causes an immediate and continuing danger to others or to the educational process. When exercising emergency removal, your school may take action without first providing your or your student an opportunity to be heard. An emergency removal takes the student out of a single class or classes but cannot last for more than 1 day.
- Emergency Expulsion which occurs when your school excludes your student from school for up to 10 days. At the end of 10 days, the emergency expulsion must end or be changed to a different form of discipline. If the school wants to extend the discipline, it must send you a letter changing the emergency expulsion into a long-term suspension or expulsion.
Contacting an attorney early on is imperative because school discipline move quickly from the alleged act to the imposition of punishment. These school discipline proceedings obstruct the education process, cause undue stress, and consume your student’s day-to-day life. And since disciplinary proceedings can originate from litany of items buried deep in your school’s code of conduct, securing high-quality legal representation should be your first step.
The team of attorneys at Blair & Kim understand the importance of an education and your interest in having your student remain in the classroom. We have experience representing students who have found themselves entangled in the “courtroom like” setting of your school’s disciplinary process. We will conduct our own investigation by interview the pertinent witnesses, collecting and preserve all relevant evidence, and preparing your student’s defense. Our mission is to provide you and your student with the personal respect, due process rights, and legal advocacy you deserve.