Do You Have Legal Options If Your Child is Suspended or Expelled?

by J.D. Written by Team eLocal.
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Kids make mistakes and get in trouble occasionally, but more serious offenses at school could result in suspension or expulsion.

If a child is suspended from school or gets expelled, it interrupts their education. Parents have the right to fight the punishment, but it's important to know how to do so to improve the odds of a positive outcome.

What Are Your Rights in the Case of Suspension or Expulsion?

The laws and processes related to suspension and expulsion can vary by state. However, parents and kids in all areas have the right to be notified about these punishments. States and schools might set requirements for how and when you're notified, such as receiving notice within 24 hours. You also have the right to know what the school is accusing your child of doing and what evidence they have.

Students and parents also have the right to appeal the decisions, especially with an expulsion, which has to go through a process in front of the school board or another governing board. You also have the right to seek help from an attorney in the matter.

Can You Appeal a Suspension or Expulsion?

Parents can appeal suspensions and expulsions. Suspensions are shorter, usually no more than 10 days, and are handled at the school level, typically by the principal. They don't usually have a formal process. You'll likely need to request a meeting with the principal or head of the school if you want to appeal the suspension. If the principal upholds the suspension, you can probably appeal to the school board.

An expulsion generally must go through a hearing process, which allows you and your child to present your side. You don't have to request the hearing — it's an automatic part of the expulsion process. Your child can't be expelled unless the school board or another governing body decides at the hearing that the expulsion is warranted.

During the hearing, your child gets to tell their side of the story, including presenting evidence or calling witnesses. You may be able to cross-examine or question witnesses that the school brings. If the school board votes to expel your child, you can appeal the expulsion.

Does Your Child Need an Attorney to Represent Them in the Appeal Process?

Your child isn't required to have an attorney for the hearing or appeals process, but hiring one can give you a better chance of winning. An attorney can advise you on your best options, help you gather evidence, argue on your behalf and help you understand the process. The behavior that causes your child to get suspended or expelled could come with criminal charges as well. Having an attorney could be beneficial for your child's defense if they're charged. Statements made in hearings or to school officials could be used against your child later in court or other disciplinary hearings.

Can You Negotiate for a Lesser Punishment?

You can meet with school administrators to discuss and possibly negotiate a less severe punishment for your child. The school doesn't have to reduce the punishment, but it can be worth a try to avoid more severe consequences. For example, if your child gets out-of-school suspension, you might see if it can change to in-school suspension if you can't take off work to stay home with your child. You might see if the suspension can be shorter or if your child can serve suspension instead of being expelled.

What If You Feel Your Child Has Been Wrongfully Suspended or Expelled?

If you appeal the suspension or expulsion to the school and they uphold their decision, you can appeal to a higher governing board. The options vary by state, but you might have the option to appeal to a county or state education board. This would allow another agency to review the situation, including all evidence, to decide if the punishment is fitting for the behavior.

Some state education boards have methods for filing complaints, especially if you feel your child was discriminated against when the punishment was decided upon. Some federal laws protect students from discrimination and also protect students with special needs. Contacting an attorney or a state agency can be helpful if you feel your child’s federal rights have been violated.

You can also file a civil lawsuit if you feel your child was wrongfully punished by the school. Because the options can vary based on where you live, contacting a lawyer is the best course of action. They understand the laws and legal routes that are available in your state. They can also review the evidence and circumstances to determine if you have a strong case.

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