Here are some important suggestions that may make the experience easier in the event that your child or teen gets suspended from school...
Get the Facts—
1. Talk with your child. Ask him to tell you (or write) exactly what happened as soon as possible so you have a clear understanding of the details related to the incident. Make sure he is being honest about what happened.
2. School administrators must provide children with notice of the charges against them, the basis for the charge, and an opportunity to tell his side of the story.
3. Immediately contact the school and request:
- a copy of any administrator's, educator's, or child's statements about the charge/incident
- a copy of the school's or district's disciplinary policies in writing (if they have not as yet been provided to you)
- a copy of the child's school records, including records for attendance, grades, and any past discipline
4. Review these materials and note anything you want to ask your youngster or the school about that may include issues relevant to the current situation.
Meet with School Officials—
1. Call the school staff person 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 ensure that your youngster is taking responsibility for his actions
- to ensure that your youngster's educational progress is not adversely affected
- to learn more of the facts around the incident
- to learn of any opportunities or services that may help your youngster (e.g., counseling or other types of social, educational, or health services)
- to verify that your youngster is being treated fairly
2. Approach the meeting with an open mind and a firm commitment not to argue or raise your voice.
3. 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.
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 moms and dads may want to ask about the situation:
- Can my youngster make up his schoolwork and tests?
- Could the educator have handled this differently?
- Exactly what did each person do? Exactly what did each person say?
- Has my youngster had similar problems before? Is this documented in writing?
- Were other children involved in this incident? What punishment did the other children receive? Why is their punishment different?
- What can the school do to help my youngster and avoid this problem in the future? For example, may my youngster change his seat in class or be transferred to a different class?
- 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?
- What other children or employees were around when this happened? What are their accounts of the incident?
- What rule did my youngster break? May I see this rule in writing? What did my youngster do to break the rule?
- Where was my youngster when this happened? Who was the educator in charge? Where was the educator when the incident happened?
- Why is my youngster receiving extra punishment?
- Will this punishment cause my youngster to fail a class or be held back?
1. Do not admit wrongdoing and do not let your child admit wrongdoing unless it is true.
2. If your child admits wrongdoing, consider or ask what can be done to "make things right." For example, is an apology to an educator or another child in order, or is there some other action your child may take to correct or make amends for the situation? If so, have your child follow through on this.
3. Take your child to the meeting with you if he can act respectfully and take responsibility for his actions. He must admit if he was wrong and violated a school rule.
Ask For Help—
Ask for help to ensure the educational progress of your youngster. A child 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 youngster's educational progress, ask the school officials to help avoid these outcomes for your youngster. Also ask for help to get other services for your youngster. The incident that led to your youngster's suspension may be related to an issue or problem that is not resolved by the suspension. Furthermore, ask for help to get support for you as a parent. Often there are things that moms and dads can do and learn about to be better advocates for their youngster's education and well-being. Schools and communities have resources or may know of support groups or opportunities that can be helpful for moms and dads.
1. Ask for a hearing to request that a situation that would harm your youngster's educational progress be reconsidered, or appeal the suspension decision.
2. Ask your school about groups, programs, and opportunities for your support and involvement in your youngster's education and development.
3. Ask if the school could assign another punishment.
4. Ask if there is help for homework in the community or tutoring help.
5. Ask if your youngster could finish the punishment during in-school suspension.
6. Ask the school to provide all of your youngster's school assignments so your youngster can complete them during the suspension. Also ask for permission to have your youngster make up the tests that would be missed.
7. Ask what other opportunities and services there are in the school or community to help your youngster. 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.
If You Believe Your Youngster Has Not Been Treated Fairly—
1. 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 youngster 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.
2. If you are not satisfied with the suspension decision, you may be entitled to appeal the suspension decision to the superintendent or his designee or to the local school board. Your school principal can tell you how to go about the appeal process.
If Your Youngster Is A Special Education Student—
Children who have Individual Educational Plans, called IEPs in most schools, and are special education children, have very specific rights concerning suspension. Discipline for special education children has specific requirements. There are parent centers in every state to provide assistance. In addition, there are other organizations that can help moms and dads understand what their youngster's and family rights are in the case of suspensions.
Recommendations for Schools—
1. A full assessment for social, medical, and mental health problems by a doctor (or other providers of care for youth) is recommended for all school-referred children who have been suspended or expelled. The evaluation should be designed to ascertain factors that may underlie the child’s behaviors and health risks and to provide a recommendation on how a youngster may better adapt to her school environment. A full history should be derived from the child, family members, and school staff members once consent to exchange information is attained. Management options to consider include appropriate referrals to drug rehabilitation programs, social agencies, mental health professionals, and other specialists who may assist with underlying problems. Doctors should routinely consider including school staff members as partners in the management of kids and youth with school behavior problems, providing that privacy issues are respected as outlined in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA [Pub L No. 104-191]) regulations.
2. As part of the school’s or district’s written policy on disciplinary action, schools should routinely refer a child to her primary health care professional for an assessment if there is a disciplinary action or a child is at risk of such action. Assistance with obtaining a medical home should occur in circumstances in which a child facing disciplinary action does not yet have one.
3. Matters related to safety and supervision should be explored with moms and dads whenever their youngster is barred from attending school. This includes but is not limited to screening moms and dads by history for presence of household guns.
4. Out-of-school placement for suspension or expulsion should be limited to the most egregious circumstances. For in-home suspension or expulsion, the school must be able to demonstrate how attendance at a school site, even in an alternative setting with a low ratio of highly trained staff to children, would be inadequate to prevent a child from causing harm to himself or herself or to others.
5. Doctors are encouraged to provide input to, or participate as members of, school- or district-based multidisciplinary child support teams that can provide disciplined children with a comprehensive assessment and intervention strategies. Schools should help support the participation of doctors on multidisciplinary teams by arranging for participation at times and in formats (e.g., telephone) that are conducive to practicing healthcare professionals, by financially supporting time for school physicians, or through other logistic considerations.
6. Doctors should advocate for practices and policies at the level of the local school, the school district, and the state department of education to protect the safety and promote the health and mental health of kids and youth who have committed serious school offenses.
7. Doctors should advocate to the local school district on behalf of the youngster so that he or she is reintroduced into a supportive and supervised school environment.
8. Schools need to establish relationships with various health and social agencies in their communities so children with disciplinary problems who require assistance are readily referred and communication lines between these agencies and schools are established.
9. Children and their families should be encouraged by school staff members to access health care and social services, which can be accomplished if these important topics are included in health education and life skills curricula. It is also recommended that health care professionals provide information to kids, youth, and families on access to health care and social services.
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