Student Discipline

Understanding the nature of your legal problem is critical to avoiding mistakes early in your case. Please review the Quick Info for Educational Discipline page which includes the Who, What, When, Where and How.

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Understanding Educational Discipline

Students have a right to a public education and certain due process rights if the school attempts to take that right away. Students also have an obligation to follow school rules and not disrupt the welfare or order of the school environment. Kids are kids and teenagers are teenagers and they can make mistakes. Parents and kids alike do not want educational opportunities curtailed because of a an alleged behavioral problem unrelated to academics. Unfortunately, in this post-Columbine world, schools are quick to suspend and interrupt a student’s education.

Your Rights

There are important due process rights that your child has. If there is a long term suspension (suspensions over 10 days long) or expulsion, your child has a right to a hearing and certain prehearing rights. The hearing does not take place in juvenile court or a court of law, but it is a hearing that must be conducted in compliance with the law. Unfortunately, school officials are not lawyers and often do not follow the law when suspending or expelling a student from school. Most parents aren’t lawyers either and are confused and overwhelmed by the expedited nature of the disciplinary process.

To assert your child’s student rights, you must affirmatively request a hearing within very short timelines � 3 days for long term suspensions. This is much different from having a conversation with the principal. A common mistake for parents is to confuse this step with the more formal administrative hearing authorized by law. This vital right to contest the suspension may be waived by a confused parent who fails to act quickly.

A parent and student also have the right to demand and inspect prior to the hearing, the evidence that will be offered at the discipline hearing. This should be done in writing and delivered quickly to the right person at the school. Persistence in follow up is imperative as many schools do not prioritize these requests despite the law.

There are other rules that are required as part of “due process” for the student that should be asserted and understood. Liza Burke helps parents and students understand and assert these rights.

One key determination to make is also whether the student is facing or may face a possible criminal charge in juvenile court. If so, it is important to consider that ANY statement your child may make in the course of defending himself/herself in the school disciplinary context may also be used against your child in a possible criminal proceeding. Most parents do not want their child taken out of school, but have greater concern for a possible criminal proceeding. The latter can have its effects on school and future opportunities as well. Liza Burke offers consultation and representation in this area and assists parents and students in identifying the most protective and effective strategies.