Last Updated on August 23, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
A student suspension from school can come as a shock. Suspension usually means a student will sit at home, and disrupts life for the student and their family. What should parents do when they get a call their child is being suspended?
Here are some actions which can help parents navigate the suspension process.
1) Write Down All Relevant Information
In that initial call from the school, during meetings, in talks with the student, or otherwise, parents should take down good notes of everything. Who said what, when, and all relevant information should be documented.
This can help parents keep track of conflicting stories and ensures everything surrounding the suspension allegation is known.
2) Exclude Student From School Meetings
Parents should excuse the student from school meetings on allegations as much as possible so the student does not mistakenly blurt something out that makes them look guilty. Student reactions or answers in meetings will be used against the student.
3) Don’t Just Believe the School
When a student is suspended, parents may quickly, and perhaps wrongly, turn against a student before getting the student’s story. Sometimes parents find out later that the school did not get the allegations right and feel terrible for ganging up on the student with the school.
It is important to not just believe what the school says is true, until parents speak in private with the student and review any evidence. In other words, parents should not just walk in and shake their head “yes” in agreement with a school, that the student is bad and wrong.
Parents can tell schools that they cannot agree with them until they validate the facts.
4) Be the Student’s Advocate Throughout
With school allegations, parents are often the only allies that students have left. The school vice principal, their teacher, and maybe other students are accusing the student of doing bad things. Whether the student did the things or not, student’s need their parents to continue to love and advocate for them.
Parents should not just immediately destroy the student verbally or otherwise based on what the school alleges. Even if true, there is more to life than whether a student got a suspension.
The student’s self respect and mental well being are very important for their survival and future.
There is nothing worse than a student feeling completely isolated and alone with no one to turn to. Parents’ unconditional love and support can help.
Parents need to guide the student through these difficult times while maintaining the student’s dignity.
5) Obtain Written Statements and Documentation
Parents need to ask for all documents and evidence in the suspension matter. This would include witness statements, video evidence, summaries, emails and other evidence.
Often I hear that schools deny parents student witness statements, saying they are not the accused student’s records. This is false.
If a statement is maintained (kept) by a school and about the student or used to discipline the student, this is a student record and must be turned over to parents. Witnesses who are minors can have their names blacked out (redacted) as needed by the school.
6) Meet with Witnesses
Parents may want to speak to witnesses who saw what the student did, such as school staff or student witnesses (with permission). The school won’t allow parents to interrogate students, so parents need to contact the parents of student witnesses to ask for permission to speak with them first.
7) Don’t Sign Anything
Parents may want to avoid signing any suspension form or statement. Students may want to avoid this as well, if possible.
8) Restrict the Information the Student Provides
Parents can try to curb access to the student about the matter. Unfortunately, as schools can interview a student without parent consent while in school, often student interviews and statements happen before the parents are involved.
If the student already provided a statement or interview, parents can still try to limit additional communications with the student by refusing to provide more interviews or statements.
Parents can also guide a student on how to gracefully refuse to answer questions if called in. This may be tough, however, for many students to do.
9) Ask for No Punishment or a Punishment Reduction
Parents can ask for a suspension to be reduced, or for an alternative punishment. With certain first offenses, alternatives to suspension are mandated.
10) File a Suspension Appeal
If there is a suspension appeal process, parents may want to pursue it.
Michelle Ball, student attorney and advocate, helps parents with school discipline matters and their resolution. As an education lawyer in Sacramento California, Michelle may assist in Newman, Meadow Vista, Lodi, Davis, Roseville, and many other locations.
Originally published January 3, 2012.