When we were kids, school discipline was pretty simple. If a student misbehaved he or she might be sent to the principal’s office, given detention or, in rare cases, he or she might face school suspension. Expulsion was almost unheard of. Like so much in our education system, school discipline has changed and become much more complicated – so complicated that the education lawyers at Kershenbaum & Raffaele are often called upon to help our clients navigate through the school law legal system.
If your child is facing school discipline you should consider consulting an experienced education attorney who understands this unique area of education law. The goal is not to avoid punishment in every case. It is simply to ensure that your school district follows both the law and its own rules and that if punishment is imposed, it is appropriate and not excessive.
Every child is entitled to due process, even when they misbehave. In addition, children who have special education needs have special rights. While a child with special needs may be disciplined for violating their school’s code of conduct, federal and state law (including IDEA) protect a special education student when the misbehavior is a manifestation of the child’s disability. From its creation, a child’s IEP should address any special behavior intervention or support strategies that he or she might require. If problem behaviors arise after an IEP is in place, parents may request an IEP meeting to address strategies for dealing with the behavior. Our education lawyers help parents with this process – often avoiding discipline problems before they happen.
When a special education student is facing expulsion, a suspension for more than 10 consecutive days or a total suspension of 15 days in a school year, more protective rules come into play. In these cases, the discipline is considered a “change in placement” and special protections apply under IDEA, including a “manifestation determination” meeting to determine whether the discipline is based on behavior that is a manifestation of the child’s disability. If the behavior did arise from the child’s disability, the child cannot be expelled or suspended, and the school will be required to develop a plan to address the child’s behavioral challenges. Sometimes schools determine that a behavior was not a manifestation of a child’s disability, but the child’s parents disagree. In these cases, parents may choose to file a complaint and request a hearing to appeal the decision. Our school lawyers regularly represent parents and children at these hearings to ensure that their rights are protected.
Institutions of higher education such as colleges and universities are usually enlightened places of learning that treat all students fairly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, particularly when it comes to disciplinary proceedings. Disciplinary action can have a long-term impact on a student’s ability to finish college or earn a post-graduate degree. It can also harm the student’s chances of obtaining financial aid and employment. Disciplinary actions such as suspension and expulsion can also mean lost months or years of effort as well as wasted tuition.
An undergraduate or graduate student accused of an academic, honor code, code of conduct or other violation requires the assistance of an experienced education attorney to protect his or her investment and future. The dedicated education attorneys at Kershenbaum & Raffaele provide legal counseling and representation for all disciplinary proceedings, including disciplinary appeals and other matters pertaining to education law. We protect the rights of college students, university students, medical students, law school students, business students and graduate school students throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
If your child is facing discipline in school – from elementary school to graduate school – don’t wait to get legal advice from an experienced education lawyer. Consulting with one of the education attorneys at Kershenbaum & Raffaele at the beginning of the process can help you avoid mistakes that could result in long term damage, both educational and financial.