By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
What does a parent do when their child, a stellar wonderful student, gets a suspension, which may tarnish their education records forever? Attack it and try to get it overturned of course.
A student suspension is a permanent black mark in a school record, which will lurk in the background waiting to communicate negative about the student. It will come up on college applications, depending on the college, and can harm a student in their future prospects. How much is unclear. What is clear is that suspensions are a big deal and should be addressed, not ignored, if possible.
A parent should immediately take action if a student is suspended:
1) Meet with the school to get the school's version of what happened. Take thorough notes.
2) It is not a great idea for parents to question their child in the school office about what happened as this may give the school evidence.
3) Get a copy of the suspension form at this meeting if possible. Sometimes schools don't even provide a written suspension form (in breach of the law), so if a parent does not have the suspension form, they should get it ASAP.
4) Review the meeting notes and the suspension form thoroughly.
5) Meet with the student in private and get his or her version of what happened.
6) Compare the suspension form and what it says to what the student says to determine what may be accurate on the suspension form, and what is not.
7) Request the witness statements and other evidence of or related to the suspension. These are student records, and must be provided, although schools often will balk at requests for these (see Ed Code 49069.7).
8) Review these.
9) Review the school policies on suspensions and the practices and procedures related to them.
10) Figure out what is wrong with the suspension- does it not meet school code, should the student have received an alternate punishment (see my blog on this)? Even if the suspension is still appropriate, there can be other arguments to attack it, such as the student's lack of discipline history, the stories of the witnesses conflict, etc.
11) After a parent gets all arguments together, a written document should be drafted to the school outlining the support for the student, arguments, and what is desired: the student returned to school now (if still out), and the suspension rescinded (reversed) and expunged.
12) Forward to the school and request a meeting with someone who has the power to overturn the suspension, such as the principal.
13) Meet with the school and use good manners, firm evidence and positive arguments to get an agreement to get rid of the student suspension now, or at a date certain in the future, such as at the end of the current semester or school year.
14) Review the student records to ensure the suspension is not noted anywhere.
If parents take action, they can potentially get suspensions out of student records and positively influence the student's future for years to come.
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.