School Discipline and Students with Disabilities: Short-Term Suspensions

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January 15, 2019
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January 18, 2019

School Discipline and Students with Disabilities: Short-Term Suspensions

For general education students, school discipline can be quite unforgiving.  The only real rights they have with respect to suspensions of 10 days or less are limited to notice of the charges and some opportunity to explain their version of events. Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975).  In such situations, students have no right to confront their accusers or to be represented by a parent or attorney when they speak with district personnel about the incident at issue.

For suspensions of 10 days or less, students with disabilities are generally subject to the same disciplinary rules as all other students.  Even if the disciplinary infraction at issue is related to their disability-related challenges, a school can suspend a student with a disability for up to 10 days without providing additional procedural protections. 34 C.F.R. 300.530(b). Students with disabilities have some additional protections, especially in situations where the proposed disciplinary action includes a suspension of more than 10 school days or includes a recommendation for expulsion.

In California, students can be suspended for any of a long list of reasons set forth in California Education Code section 48900.  Various school personnel are empowered to suspend individual students for any of the reasons approved in the statute: teachers can suspend a student from class for up to two days (Cal. Ed. Code § 48910); principals can suspend students for up to five days (Cal. Ed. Code § 48911), and will often extend the initial suspension for an additional 5 days in more serious situations.  Such suspensions are difficult to challenge because neither federal nor California state law provides a right to appeal the decision to suspend a student. The opportunity to appeal short-term suspensions will generally be governed by school district policy instead of state or federal law.

The attorneys at N.A.V. are highly experienced in helping families aggressively challenge school disciplinary actions.  For advice on specific situations, please fill out our intake form, and we will be in contact shortly.

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