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What to Do if Your Child or Teen is Suspended from School

by Dore Frances, IEC, founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC
If your son or daughter is ever suspended from school, these suggestions may make the experience easier.

Get the Facts

  1. Immediately contact the school and request: 1) a copy of the student's school records, including records for attendance, grades, and any past discipline; 2) a copy of any administrator's, teacher's, or student's statements about the charge/incident; and 3) a copy of the school's or district's disciplinary policies in writing (if they have not as yet been provided to you). Review these materials and note anything you want to ask your child or the school about that may include issues relevant to the current situation.
  2. School administrators must provide students with notice of the charges against them, the basis for the charge, and an opportunity to tell his/her side of the story.
  3. Talk with your son or daughter. Ask him/her to tell you (or even better to write out) exactly what happened as soon as possible so you have a clear understanding of the details related to the incident. Make sure he/she is being honest about what happened.
Meet with School Officials
  1. Call the principal or assistant principal who gave the suspension and ask for a face-to-face meeting at a time that is convenient for you. Ask for whatever accommodation you need to enable you to participate fully in the meeting, for example, if you need to meet in the evening or need a translator if you do not speak English. There are five good reasons to request and attend a face-to-face meeting: to learn more of the facts around the incident, to verify that your child is being treated fairly, to ensure that your child is taking responsibility for his/her actions, to ensure that your child's educational progress is not adversely affected, and to learn of any opportunities or services that may help your child, such as counseling or other types of social, educational, or health services.
  2. Do not go alone to the meeting. Take someone with you who can serve as an advocate and provide you with support or make you feel more comfortable. This might be a friend, neighbor, community service agency representative, or clergy. Make sure that the school official is informed that this person will be present at the meeting.
  3. Approach the meeting with an open mind and a firm commitment not to argue or raise your voice.
  4. Write down any questions you have before the meeting and bring your list with you so you can ask your questions and have them answered at the meeting.
Questions that parents may want to ask about the situation:
  1. What rule did my child break? May I see this rule in writing? What did my child do to break the rule?
  2. What is the normal punishment for breaking this rule? Is there a different punishment for the first, second, or third violation of this rule? Are these things in writing?
  3. Why is my child receiving extra punishment?
  4. Where was my child when this happened? Who was the teacher in charge? Where was the teacher when the incident happened?
  5. What other students or employees were around when this happened? What are their accounts of the incident?
  6. Were other students involved in this incident? What punishment did the other students receive? Why is their punishment different?
  7. Exactly what did each person do? Exactly what did each person say?
  8. Could the teacher have handled this differently?
  9. Has my child had similar problems before? Is this documented in writing?
  10. Will this punishment cause my child to fail a class or be held back?
  11. Can my child make up his schoolwork and tests?
  12. What can the school do to help my child and avoid this problem in the future? For example, may my child change his seat in class or be transferred to a different class?
  1. Take your son/daughter to the meeting with you if he/she can act respectfully and take responsibility for his/her actions. He/she must admit if he/she was wrong and violated a school rule.
  2. Do not admit wrongdoing and do not let your son/daughter admit wrongdoing unless it is true.
  3. If your son or daughter admits wrongdoing, consider or ask what can be done to "make things right." For example, is an apology to a teacher or another student in order, or is there some other action your son or daughter may take to correct or make amends for the situation? If so, have your son or daughter follow through on this.
Ask For Help To ensure the educational progress of your child.

A student can fail a class if he misses too much work or can be retained in the same grade if he misses too many days. If the suspension will harm your child's educational progress, ask the school officials to help avoid these outcomes for your child.

  1. Ask the school to provide all of your child's school assignments so your child can complete them during the suspension. Also ask for permission to have your child make up the tests that would be missed.
  2. Ask if there is help for homework in the community or tutoring help.
  3. Ask if your child could finish the punishment during in-school suspension.
  4. Ask if the school could assign another punishment.
  5. Ask for a hearing to request that a situation that would harm your child's educational progress be reconsidered, or appeal the suspension decision
To get other services for your child:

The incident that led to your child's suspension may be related to an issue or problem that is not resolved by the suspension.

  1. Ask what other opportunities and services there are in the school or community to help your child. Consider and ask about services such as: ongoing counseling; testing for learning disabilities; opportunities to be mentored; peer mediation programs; special education services; special language programs; tutoring; drug counseling; mental health services; anger management, social skills, and conflict resolution training classes; and involvement in youth leadership activities, sports, camps, after-school programs, and community service activities.
To get support for you as a parent:

Often there are things that parents can do and learn about to be better advocates for their child's education and well-being. Schools and communities have resources or may know of support groups or opportunities that can be helpful for parents.

  1. Ask your school about groups, programs, and opportunities for your support and involvement in your child's education and development.
If You Believe Your Child Has Not Been Treated Fairly
  1. If you are not satisfied with the suspension decision, you may be entitled to appeal the suspension decision to the superintendent or his/her designee or to the local school board. Your school principal can tell you how to go about the appeal process.
  2. The United States Constitution and other federal laws prohibit any educational discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, or other difference. If you believe your child has been treated unfairly because of his race or other characteristic you may file a complaint of discrimination with the Office for Civil Rights of the U. S. Department of Education. There is a regional office serving your area. Call the Civil Rights Hotline at 1-800-421-3481.
If Your Child Is A Special Education Student

Students who have Individual Educational Plans, called IEPs in most schools, and are special education students, have very specific rights concerning suspension. Discipline for special education students has specific requirements. There are parent centers in every state to provide assistance. In addition, there are other organizations that can help parents understand what their child's and family rights are in the case of suspensions. Parents should call 1-888-248-0844 or contact the Technical Assistance Alliance at www.taalliance.org.

RESOURCES Special Education Technical Assistance and Dissemination Network

The Alliance is an innovative project that focuses on providing technical assistance for establishing, developing, and coordinating Parent Training and Information Projects and Community Parent Resource Centers under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Telephone: 1-888-248-0844.

U.S. Office for Civil Rights

The mission of the Office for Civil Rights is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.

A complaint of discrimination can be filed by anyone who believes that an education institution that receives Federal financial assistance has discriminated against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age. The person or organization filing the complaint need not be a victim of the alleged discrimination, but may complain on behalf of another person or group. Telephone: 1-800-421-3481. www.ed.gov/offices/OCR/.

Association for Childhood Education International

The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) works to promote the rights, education, and well-being of all children in their homes, schools, and communities. The ACEI promotes cooperation among those serving children, works to raise the standard of preparation for those involved with the care and development of children, encourages continuous professional growth of educators, and focuses public attention on changes required in various programs to accommodate the rights and needs of children.

Telephone: (800) 423-3563

www.udel.edu/bateman/acei

Families and Education

Families and Education provides information and ideas to help parents understand how schools and other educational programs work, how children learn, and how parents and families can best contribute to the learning process. It includes the parent brochure series "Parents Ask About. . ." in English and Spanish, and documents related to parent involvement.www.rmcres.com/famed/index.html.

American Bar Association

The American Bar Association (ABA) is the national professional organization of the legal profession, principally representing practicing lawyers, judges, court administrators, law teachers, public service attorneys, and non-practicing lawyers in other professions. www.abanet.org.

The ABA's home page offers access to the following two youth-related sites:

The ABA Center on Children and the Law works to improve the quality of life for children through advancements in law, justice, and public policy. In areas relating to children and families, the center works to improve laws, policies, and judicial procedures; to conduct and disseminate research on law, policy, and practice; to enhance the skills and competence of legal professionals and non-attorneys; and to increase public awareness of the law and the judicial system. www.abanet.org/child/.

Dore Frances, IEC, is an educcational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: www.guidingteens.com or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email at:Dore@DoreFrances.com.
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Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.

 

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