February 25, 2019 by middleearthnj
Every parent dreads a phone call from their child’s school to discuss poor behavior. It can bring up a wide range of emotions from embarrassment, anger, fear, and disbelief. Regardless of your reaction, it is in your best interest to stay calm and gather more information.
The Difference Between Expulsion and Suspension
If you have received a phone call from the school about your teenager’s behavior, you will want to be clear if your teen is facing an expulsion or a suspension. Although each of these disciplinary actions vary by school district, below is a general description:
In-School Suspension (ISS): An in-school suspension is when your child is taken out of their regular classes and put into a separate room. Your child will need to complete all of their daily work and also spend their lunch break in this one room.
Out-of-School Suspension (OSS): An out-of-school suspension is usually a number of days when your child is not allowed to go to school, be on school grounds, nor attend any school functions. The number of days can vary depending upon the severity of the behavior and whether or not there have been previous suspensions.
Expulsion: An expulsion, on the other hand, is a more serious consequence. Your child is basically removed from the school rosters and not allowed to attend school or school-related activities for a much longer period of time (a year or more). An expulsion is a process that involves going before the school board or other educational administrative personnel for a hearing. It would be determined at this hearing whether or not your child will be expelled. Generally, after the expulsion expires, a child may be able to re-enroll in school, though they may have to meet special conditions.
When Can Kids Be Expelled?
Since expulsion is the most serious disciplinary action that a school can take, it is seen as a last resort punishment by the school. Grounds for expulsion in public schools are often guided by federal and state laws. Under the federal Gun-Free Schools Act, any student who brings a gun to school must be expelled for a minimum of one full year. Many states have laws requiring expulsion for bringing other weapons, such as knives, to school. Some states also call for expulsion for bringing, selling or using drugs at school. Many schools have rules in place to expel students for repeated dangerous behavior, such as fighting, or for an automatic expulsion after a certain number of suspensions.
Steps to Take When Facing Expulsion
There are a number of things you can do between the time you learn your child is facing expulsion and when the final decision to expel your child has been made by school authorities.
Gather information. The first thing you need to do is gather as much information as possible. You need to hear both sides of the story – your teen’s version of events and your school’s perspective of events, preferably in an in-person meeting. Ask for the “who, what, when, where, and why” of your teenager’s problems at school from both sides and try to keep an open mind as you listen carefully without judgment. You can argue your case later at the hearing, but in the early stages of this process, the key is to find out the facts, such as what happened and what evidence the school has.
Obtain Documentation. Schools are required to provide written notices of suspensions and expulsions. Keep copies of any paperwork that the school provides you connected with the incident. You can also ask for any documents related to your teen’s possible expulsion. If your teen is facing expulsion because of repeated suspension, be sure you have all notices and documents about the past suspensions. If you were not provided with these notices, or have misplaced them, ask the school for new copies. Collect all the notices and information in a folder for easy access when meeting with anyone about your teen’s case.
Enlist an Advocate. When you meet with school officials, you are allowed to bring someone with you. It can be a family member, friend, an educational advocate, a special education advocate, or even an attorney. (Special education advocates can help you negotiate with your school with regards to disciplinary actions appropriate for students with special needs.) It can be very helpful to have another person hear the school’s perspective because they might think of questions that do not occur to you. It is especially helpful if that person is a neutral third-party with an understanding of the education system because they can offer you valuable advice. If you attend a school conference and you’re not sure you understand everything that’s going on, do not agree to or sign anything until you consult a qualified third-party.
Consider Contacting an Attorney. Many behaviors that lead to a teen facing an expulsion can also lead to criminal charges. If you believe your teen might face criminal charges, contact an attorney who specializes in Family Law. Bringing in an attorney early on will give him or her a chance to provide guidance throughout the process, especially because the expulsion process and the criminal process may each affect one another.
Seek Professional Help. There are many causes for behavioral problems in teenagers. Depression, anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, and trauma are all common factors that can lead to teens making poor decisions. If your teen is misbehaving consistently in school, you need to determine the root cause. The best way to do that is to take your teen to a professional, trained to diagnose conditions and recognize red flags. You can get recommendations for such a professional by calling your pediatrician’s office. When your teen is facing serious life consequences from their actions it is important to find someone who can help guide them to making better choices.
Prepare for the Hearing. Federal laws state that your child has a right to a fair hearing before being expelled. This process varies between states and school districts, but regardless of the process, the school should provide you with a date for an expulsion hearing. Make sure you ask the school how the hearing process will work. You will want to know what to expect, if you can bring in witnesses, and how to present evidence that shows whether or not your child broke a school rule. Prior to the hearing, you should make a plan to address any behavioral problems that led to the expulsion, which you can then provide to the committee to take into account during the hearing.
Steps to Take Once Your Teen Is Expelled
The hearing will lead to a decision over whether or not your teen is expelled from school. It is understandable that you may be disappointed, angry or upset if your child is expelled. The expulsion process can be difficult for everyone involved, especially a loving parent who has strongly advocated for their child. If your teen is expelled from school, take these steps next:
Consider Appealing. Generally, you should only appeal if you believe that the evidence at the hearing did not support the decision to expel your child or if certain evidence was not considered. If you do decide to appeal, you should be able to find guidelines detailing how to do so in the student handbook or in other materials you have been provided by the school district.
Explore Learning Options. Being expelled does not necessarily mean an end to your teen’s education. You should explore what options are available for your child. Here are some possible ideas:
- Your teen’s school district may offer a public online school.
- Some school districts offer a special school for teens who have been expelled.
- Consider enrolling your teen in a private school.
- You have the option to homeschool your teen.
Whichever option you choose, be sure that this new option fits your teen’s unique needs.
Understand All Terms of Expulsion. Make sure you understand:
- if and when your teen can return to school.
- if your teen must meet certain requirements before they are allowed to return to school (these steps should be written out in a customized school re-entry plan).
- if they are banned from school grounds and/or all school district grounds.
If your teen is banned from school grounds, find out how long the ban lasts, and under what conditions. Additionally, if your teen might want to attend a special school event of a sibling or close friend, find out if there is a way to request a special pass for the event.
Determine Consequences. When a teen is expelled from school, many parents are feeling rightfully angry, but anger can lead to overly harsh punishments. Remember that the expulsion itself is a punishment, and more than likely, your teen is facing significant issues that led to the problems in the first place. Additional punishments might not teach your teen anything. Instead, consider having your teen earn their privileges each day. For example, you might require that your teen does the following during normal school hours: positively engage in treatment (work with a counselor, etc.), do any school work that may have been sent home (or is assigned from homeschooling or online school), work on any past-due assignments, and perform household chores. If your teen chooses to shirk any of those responsibilities, they don’t earn their privileges for the next day. This might mean suspending their cell service or taking the game controllers with you to work. This method of earning privileges each day will likely gain more cooperation from your teen and begin to rebuild trust in your relationship.
Having a child get expelled from school is extremely stressful. Be sure that you take care of yourself during this difficulty. Also, keep this process in perspective. With your support, the expulsion can provide your teen with time to resolve issues that led to their difficulties, ultimately preparing them for better decision making as an adult. One incident in childhood will not determine the course of your teen’s entire life. Keep calm, open the lines of communication with your teen, and focus on guiding your teen to figuring life out. You and your teen can recover, set things straight, and move forward.