Charter schools have wide discretion to “make reasonable and necessary rules” for their students, including regulations for students during the school day and during the period when students are traveling to or from school.
The only time that schools can regulate out-of-school conduct is if it substantially disrupts school programs. Schools cannot punish students for anything they do outside of school if it’s not on their way to or from school.
What are the rules at my child’s school?
Each school must publish a code of student conduct and give copies to students and their families. Schools can discipline students if they break rules listed in the code of conduct. Please consult your school’s code of conduct for a list of rules. Codes of conduct can also be found on each school’s page (link to directory).
My child has been suspended. What does that mean?
If your child breaks a rule listed in your school’s code of conduct, he or she might be punished with in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension. Suspensions cannot be appealed.
In-school suspension: This is usually a one- to ten-day suspension that takes place on school grounds. Before this happens, your child must be informed of the reason for suspension and given a chance to tell his or her side of the story. Parents must also be notified. During the in-school suspension, your child’s education will continue. (If the in-school suspension is for more than ten days in a row, the student must be offered an informal hearing. See below for more information.)
Out-of-school suspension: This is a one- to ten-day suspension that takes place out of school. Before this happens, your child must be informed of the reason for suspension and given a chance to tell his or her side of the story. Parents must be notified in writing. An out-of-school suspension can last no more than ten school days in a row, and only the principal or person in charge of the school, such as an assistant principal, can suspend the student. When the suspension is over, the student has the right to come back to school and finish any assignments he or she missed.
What happens if my special education student gets in trouble?
Students with disabilities who receive special education services can be suspended and expelled from school. However, special rules apply if a school wants to expel a student with an Individualized Education Program or suspend such a child for more than a total of fifteen school days in a school year. In both situations, a team of people knowledgeable about the child—including the parent—must decide whether the misbehavior was a “manifestation” of the disability before the discipline can take place. If it was, the child cannot be expelled or suspended for more than fifteen school days. If the team decides it was not a manifestation and the parent disagrees with the team’s decision, the parent has the right to a special education hearing. Even if a special education student is expelled, the district or charter school must still arrange for him or her to receive an appropriate educational program. A child with intellectual disabilities cannot be suspended for any length of time without the parent’s agreement, the agreement of the state Department of Education, or an order from a hearing officer or judge.
A student also cannot be disciplined for a disability. A student with a disability has a right to a manifestation determination review to decide whether the conduct was related to or the result of the disability if he or she is:
- Suspended for more than ten school days in a row
- Suspended for fifteen total school days in the school year
- Transferred to an alternative school for more than ten school days in a row
- Classified as having intellectual disabilities
If so, the student cannot be disciplined unless the offense involves drugs, weapons, or serious injury.
The school has scheduled an informal hearing for our family. What is that?
If your child is suspended for a period of four to ten days, you have the right to an informal hearing within five days of the suspension. This allows your family to meet with school officials to explain your side of the story, hear from others involved in the incident, and discuss ways to avoid suspension in the future. The student can speak during the hearing, invite others to support his or her story, and ask questions.
I received a notice that my child may be expelled from school. What does that mean?
Any removal from school for more than ten days in a row is an expulsion. Your child may be expelled for a specific amount of time (like a semester or a year), or he or she may be permanently expelled. All expulsions require written notice and a formal hearing in front of the school’s board or a hearing officer.
The school has scheduled a formal hearing for our family. What is that?
In the time leading up to the formal hearing, a student will remain in his or her regular class schedule, unless he or she has been identified as a “threat.” At the formal hearing, parents and families have the right to:
- Hire a lawyer.
- Explain your side of the story.
- Invite others to support your story.
- Ask questions of the school or anyone representing the school.
Formal hearings must be recorded, and a decision must be approved by the majority vote of the school’ board. Families and students then have thirty days to appeal to the local Court of Common Pleas.
If you waive the hearing and your child is expelled, that decision cannot be appealed.
We went through the formal hearing, and my child is now expelled. What happens now?
If an expelled student is under age seventeen, the student must still attend school. This can be another public school, charter school, private school, or homeschooling. If none of these can be arranged, you must state so in writing within thirty days of date of decision.
Does my child’s punishment mean that he or she won’t be accepted to another school?
No. A school cannot refuse to enroll a child based on his or her disciplinary record. If your child is currently expelled for a weapons offense, the district residence will arrange for an alternative assignment for the length of the expulsion.