Written by Mark Weiker, Esq. from Albeit Weiker, LLP; education law attorney focused on student rights & father of two.
Unfortunately, it remains the norm for primary and secondary schools throughout the country to use suspension and expulsion as a remedy for bad behavior, despite almost no evidence that removing students from the educational environment works to deter bad behavior or increase academic performance.
To the contrary, data from the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights indicates that even a single suspension increases the likelihood of future misconduct, and can lead to lower graduation rates and increased involvement in the juvenile justice system. So, it is an understatement to say that suspension and expulsion can be disruptive to a student’s education and social progression.
In Ohio, suspensions and expulsions are allowed under state law. Out-of-school school suspensions may be issued for up to 10 consecutive school days. Expulsions (which, if issued, always follow a suspension) may be issued for up to 80 days for common rules violations, and up to one year for more serious offenses such as bringing a weapon onto school property or making a bomb threat. (Note that Ohio students in grades K-3 may only be suspended or expelled for these more serious offenses.) Permanent exclusion is also a possibility for students who commit very serious criminal acts. Suspensions and expulsions include complete removal of the student from the school environment.
If you or your child are facing suspension or expulsion, you should consider taking these steps to protect yourself and mitigate any negative impact to your or your child’s education:
#1 – Review the Notice Carefully
You should first receive a Notice of Intent to Suspend/Expel, informing you of the alleged infractions, followed by an actual Notice of Suspension/Expulsion, notifying you that you have been suspended/expelled. Review the alleged infractions in the student handbook and in the school’s policies and compare the definitions for the infractions to what took place. Pay close attention to the appeal deadlines. This is a good time to contact an attorney if you plan to use one.
#2 – Always Appeal
You should appeal the suspension/expulsion, even if you’re not sure whether you plan to pursue the appeal. An attorney can appeal for you, but the deadline to appeal can be as short as 2-3 days, so you may need to appeal before you find an attorney. Make sure you submit the appeal in writing in accordance with the instructions on the notice. You are entitled to separate suspension and expulsion appeal hearings (if you are dealing with both), although you may ask to combine them if they would be redundant. An appeal hearing will be scheduled, usually within days. You can always request an extension in order to prepare for the hearing, gather records, obtain counsel, etc.
The hearing will provide you a chance to explain your side of the story and submit evidence. You may also call witnesses to the hearing, although the process is less formal than court. Obviously, you need to prepare very well for your hearing, highlighting the reasons that you believe suspension/expulsion is not warranted. Your appeal can be withdrawn if you change your mind or determine that the suspension/expulsion is acceptable.
#3 – Complete All Assignments While You Are Out of School
In Ohio, schools must give students at least 50% credit during an out-of-school suspension. The same is not true for expulsion. Nonetheless, during the pending appeal(s) and through any suspension/expulsion period, complete as much work as you can. Try to stay as current with your assignments as possible. The reasons for this are twofold: (1) this keeps you from falling too far behind academically during the appeal hearings and any imposed suspension/expulsion period, and (2) this indicates to the hearing officer(s) that you are both capable and motivated to continue learning. This can help you in your appeal hearing because you can argue that you are a contributing student who can seamlessly transition right back to the classroom environment.
We hope you can avoid suspension and expulsion altogether. But, if you find yourself in trouble, taking these three steps will help to mitigate the negative effects of suspension/expulsion.