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Common Questions about Facing Punishment or Expulsion from School

Contents

    Questions about School Discipline

    Can the school discipline my child?

    Yes. Schools can discipline students to keep the school safe and maintain order. But students have rights, too. To learn more, read School Discipline: Rights for All Students.

    My child was disciplined for something that happened after school or off school grounds. Can the school do that?

    Yes. Schools can discipline students for behavior that happens outside of school or when school is not in session. But students have rights, too. To learn more, read School Discipline: Rights for All Students.

    My child was disciplined for fighting, but the other child wasn’t. Is that fair?

    It may not seem fair, but the school can give different punishments to different children. To learn more about your child’s rights as a student, read School Discipline: Rights for All Students.

    Must the school ever discipline my child?

    Yes. Under the state’s “zero-tolerance” laws, schools must expel students who bring weapons to school, commit arson (set something on fire), engage in criminal sexual conduct, or physically assault a staff person or volunteer.

    A weapon is defined very specifically in the law. The school can make an exception for a student who brings a weapon to school in some situations. To learn more, read Mandatory Expulsion from School.

    Do I have a right to know if my child is being disciplined?

    Yes. You have a right to know if your child is removed from school. If your child is out for 10 days or fewer, the notice can be informal. If your child is out for more than 10 days, you must get a written note explaining what happened and why your child is being disciplined. To learn more, read School Discipline: Rights for All Students.

    If your child has a disability, he or she is has extra rights and protections. To learn more, read School Discipline: Rights for Students with Disabilities.

    Do I have a right to appeal if my child was disciplined?

    Yes. You have a right to appeal if your child is removed from school. If your child is out for 10 days or fewer, the appeal can be informal. If your child is out for more than 10 days, you have a right to a hearing in front of the school board or other authority set up by the school. To learn more, read School Discipline: Rights for All Students.

    If your child has a disability, he or she has extra rights and protections. To learn more, read School Discipline: Rights for Students with Disabilities.

    Are in-school suspensions different from other punishment?

    No. If your child is not in class or somehow getting instruction, in-school discipline can count as a suspension.

    What can I do if the school tells me I need to pick up my child because of behavioral issues?

    Your child’s school may call and ask you to pick up your child because of behavioral issues. Although the school is not calling it a suspension, it could be one. Like serial suspensions, this could make up a pattern. You can ask the school for a Functional Behavior Assessment or to reevaluate your child’s Behavior Intervention Plan. If this happens more than once, you may want to contact a lawyer to learn more about your options. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and other legal services in your area.

    Questions about Disciplining Children With Disabilities

    My child has a disability, can the school punish him or her?

    Yes. Children with disabilities have extra rights when they are disciplined. They cannot be disciplined for behavior that is caused by their disability or if the school did not follow an Individualized Education Program (IEP). To learn more, read School Discipline: Rights for Students with Disabilities.

    What if my child doesn’t have an IEP and he or she is being disciplined?

    In some cases, even if your child does not have an IEP, your child may be protected by special education laws. They apply if:

    • Your child is being evaluated to see if he or she is eligible for special education at the time when the behavior being disciplined happens;

    • You tell a teacher or administrator in writing that you think your child has a disability before the behavior happens; or

    • A teacher told an administrator that your child might have disability before the behavior happens.

    If you have not yet applied to be evaluated for services, and you think your child has a disability, you can apply as soon as possible. To learn more, read School Discipline: Rights for Students with Disabilities.

    You can use the Do-It-Yourself Letter Requesting Special Education Services tool to draft a letter asking the school to evaluate your child for a disability.

    What is a Manifestation Determination Review?

    A Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) is a meeting where a group of people decides if your child’s behavior was caused by disability or by the school’s failure to follow the Individualized Education Program (IEP). If the behavior was caused by your child’s disability or by the school’s failure to follow the IEP, then the behavior was a manifestation of your child’s disability. This means a school cannot suspend or expel your child. To learn more, read The Manifestation Determination Review

    What happens if my child’s behavior is a manifestation of disability?

    If the Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) team finds that your child’s behavior is caused by his or her disability, the school must look at your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and change it to try to help your child show more positive behavior. Your child must return to school somewhere. The school can hold a team meeting to change your child’s program.

    To learn more, read The Manifestation Determination Review.

    What happens if my child’s behavior is not a manifestation of disability?

    If the Manifestation Determination Review team finds that your child’s behavior is not caused by his or her disability, the school may discipline your child the same way it would discipline a child without a disability. Discipline may include suspension or expulsion. Sometimes you may be able to ask for extra time to get information about your child’s disability by writing a letter to the school board.

    To learn more, read The Manifestation Determination Review. You can use the Do-It-Yourself Letter for Students Receiving Special Education Services Who Are Being Disciplined (Suspended or Expelled) tool to ask the school to reschedule your child’s expulsion for a later date.

    When does a Manifestation Determination Review have to happen?

    The school must hold a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) after your child is out of school for more than 10 school days in a row. If your child is held out of school for shorter periods that add up to more than 10 days, and the incidents are close in time or closely related to each other, the school must hold an MDR.

    If the school tries to expel your child before holding an MDR, you can write a letter to them to stop the expulsion. To learn more, read The Manifestation Determination Review. You can use the Do-It-Yourself Letter for Students Receiving Special Education Services Who Are Being Disciplined (Suspended or Expelled) tool to ask the school to hold an MDR.

    Who attends a Manifestation Determination Review meeting?

    The Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) is held by a group of school people and you. Often the people in the MDR are the same people on your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team.

    What does the Manifestation Determination Review team have to look at?

    When a school holds a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR), the group must look at all the important information that applies to the situation. This includes information you bring to the meeting. If the information about your child is not up to date, the school may need to get more current data on how your child is doing.

    To learn more, read The Manifestation Determination Review.

    Can I appeal the Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) team decision?

    Yes. You can choose to ask the school board to order a redetermination or ask for an expedited due process hearing. You can use the Do-It-Yourself Letter to School Board Requesting Reconsideration of Discipline tool (coming soon) to draft a letter to school board.

    A due process hearing is not the same hearing as the one you would have with the school board. It is a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge to disagree with the decision of the MDR team formally. You can use the Do-It-Yourself Letter for Students Receiving Special Education Services (SES) Who Are Being Disciplined (Suspended or Expelled) tool to draft your request.

    What happens to my child if I appeal a Manifestation Determination Review finding?

    If you request an expedited due process hearing, “stay put” rules apply. This means your child cannot be expelled until the hearing is finished. However, the school may move your child to an “interim alternative educational setting” for up to 45 school days. This setting must still provide proper services and supports to your child.

    You can indirectly challenge an MDR finding by requesting an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). This option may not stop the school from suspending or expelling your child. To learn more about IEEs and other evaluations, read Evaluations for Students With Disabilities.

    To learn more, read The Manifestation Determination Review.

    Can the school move my child to another school during the Manifestation Determination Review?

    The school may move your child if you agree to it, or if a court or hearing officer believes your child is a danger to himself or herself or others. The school may also move your child if your child’s behavior included weapons, drugs, or serious physical injury.

    Can my child get services even if expelled from school?

    It depends. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and has been expelled from school, he or she is still eligible for Special Education Services and supports. The level of service is lower and the services may not be provided at school. However, the services must allow your child to make some progress toward goals and keep up with academic subjects. To learn more, read Free Appropriate Public Education.

    If your child has a Section 504 Plan and is expelled from school, he or she may receive services if the school provides such services to expelled students who do not have disabilities.

    When can I request a due process hearing?

    You can request a due process hearing if you:

    1. Disagree with your child’s evaluations, placement, eligibility, and Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

    2. Disagree with the decision of a Manifestation Determination Review

    3. Believe your child’s school has violated a state or federal education law

    To learn more, read Due Process Hearings and Education-Related Complaints.

    What is a Functional Behavior Assessment, and when can I ask for one?

    A Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) can be part of your child’s IEP. An FBA helps school staff understand how the problem behavior serves your child. This allows them to decide how best to reduce or stop the problem behavior. The problem behavior should be replaced with acceptable behavior that serves the same purpose for your child. The school could develop a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) to help accomplish this.

    You can ask for an FBA when your child needs it, not just in cases of expulsion or long-term suspension. Some schools mistakenly deny a parent’s request for an FBA in situations where a student has not been out of school for more than 10 days. A student does not have to be kept out of school for more than 10 days before a school is allowed to do an FBA. If the school is refusing to do a FBA for your child you may want to contact a lawyer. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

    What is a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)?

    A Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) is designed to help prevent behavioral problems by looking at what causes them. A BIP should include plans to teach a child alternative behavior. A student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan could include a BIP if the student has behavioral issues.

    What is an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES)?

    If your child is suspended for more than 10 days or expelled, he or she could be placed in an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES). Your child’s IEP Team, which you are a part of, will decide on the IAES. Your child will still be entitled to Special Education Services (SES) while suspended. The IAES should allow your child to continue working towards goals set in his or her IEP. A possible IAES could be your home

    When can I ask for an expedited due process hearing for my child?

    If your child is receiving Special Education Services (SES), facing a long-term suspension or expulsion, and the Manifestation Determination Review found your child’s behavior was not a manifestation of his or her disability, you can ask for an expedited due process hearing. Expedited due process hearings are different than other due process hearings. They are expedited (on a faster track) because a student receiving SES is facing disciplinary action.

    You can use the Do-It-Yourself Letter for Students Receiving Special Education Services (SES) Who Are Being Disciplined (Suspended or Expelled) tool to draft a letter to the Michigan Department of Education asking for this hearing.