Special Education School Expulsion Attorney in New Jersey
Facing an expulsion is a serious matter for any student, particularly a child with disabilities.
An expulsion impacts any child’s education, but it also affects services outlined in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for students with special needs. What’s more, depending on the offense, it could result in criminal charges.
The school expulsion lawyers at Susan Clark Law Group LLC understand the unique challenges faced by families with special needs. If you and your child need a New Jersey school expulsion lawyer to guide you through this difficult process and advocate for a compassionate solution, we’re here to assist you.
Contact us now for a free consultation about how we can help with your situation.
Common Reasons for Expulsion
The New Jersey Department of Education states that when a student has a disability, school district personnel can consider any unique circumstances on a case-by-case basis when deciding whether to impose discipline. The state also says that preschool students with disabilities shall not be expelled or suspended.
However, there are offenses that can result in a student’s immediate expulsion. Bringing a gun to school for whatever reason causes a student to be expelled for at least a year, according to the federal Zero Tolerance for Guns Act.
Other offenses cause a student to be removed immediately from school property pending a decision on expulsion or long-term suspension. These include:
- Physically assaulting school staff
- Bringing, buying, or selling drugs at school
- Repeated fighting and bullying
- An accumulation of repeated offenses and suspensions
Students have the right of due process, which means they can present their side of events, along with evidence, at a hearing. A chief school administrator makes the final determination about whether a student should return to the general education program, remain in an alternative placement, or receive home or out-of-school instruction.
School officials can consider that a student voluntarily waives his or her right to a free public education if he or she knowingly and repeatedly engages in behavior against the code of conduct – such as willful disobedience, physical assault, stealing, vandalism, trespassing – resulting in expulsion, state statutes say.
Difference Between Expulsion and Suspension
An expulsion terminates a student’s public educational services and any additional support from the school system.
With a suspension, a child still falls within the school system and can receive educational and support services in an alternative setting. A child can be suspended short-term for up to 10 days, and long-term for 10 to 45 days.
Special Rights for Children with Disabilities
Students with disabilities have special rights when facing expulsion. Schools must first determine if the child’s disability was a cause or a factor in the offensive behavior. This is called a Manifestation Determination (MD) and involves a meeting with the parents and relevant IEP team members.
If the student’s disability played a part in the behavior, the team must review any existing behavior intervention plan, or conduct a functional behavioral assessment and develop such a plan if one does not exist. They also can change the student’s program or placement to an interim alternative educational setting.
If the MD uncovers that the behavior is not a manifestation of the disability, the student may be suspended and placed in an interim alternative educational setting pending the outcome of an expulsion hearing.
What to Do When You Learn of an Impending Expulsion
An expulsion hearing generally occurs within 11 days after the first day your child is suspended. At least five days before this hearing, you should receive a written notice from the school explaining which rule your child is accused of breaking from the code of conduct.
This notice also should list the date, time, and location of the hearing, plus how you can obtain a school expulsion attorney to represent your child.
You have the right to ask for copies of any school records that you think may help you defend your child, along with a list of the school’s witnesses and copies of any written statements related to this incident. Some districts refer to this as an “expulsion packet.”
It’s also wise to find someone from outside your family – such as a coach, member of your church, or activity leader – who can speak to your child’s character at the hearing. If this person is unable to attend the hearing, you can ask them to write a letter on your child’s behalf describing your child’s good attributes.
If you can’t attend the hearing at the scheduled date and time, or if you need more time to retain an attorney or prepare for the hearing, you have the right to ask to postpone the hearing and reschedule.
What to Expect at an Expulsion Hearing
An expulsion hearing involves presenting evidence before a neutral person from the community or a neutral board of several members of the district’s board of education.
Here, the school and your child will present their understanding of events. You or someone you trust, such as a child advocate or school expulsion attorney, will advocate for your child, along with presenting witnesses who saw what happened or who know your child well and can discuss his or her academic and disciplinary background.
The state says that your child can return to his or her educational program immediately if it is shown that the student did not commit the offense.
Depending on the incident, your child also may face criminal charges in juvenile court. The criminal matter is separate from the expulsion hearing, but because the hearing is recorded, anything said here may be used in the juvenile case. That’s why it’s helpful to have a school expulsion lawyer present to advise both you and your child during the hearing.
If your child does not prevail at the hearing, you have the right to appeal to the state’s education commissioner regarding the district board of education’s decision. Your child’s school will have guidelines outlining how to appeal.
If the evidence does not support your child, you may want to waive your right to the hearing and sign an agreement allowing your child to be expelled. Then you can focus on requesting that the expulsion last for only a short period of time and get clear on the conditions your child must fulfill to reenter schooling.
If your child is younger than 16, he or she will continue to receive an education in an alternative setting during the expulsion. A child between ages 16 and 18 can continue to receive an alternative education provided the child follows any conditions that the school district sets. Your child’s education doesn’t have to be as comprehensive as what it was before the expulsion, but it must allow your child to progress.
You also may consider a change in placement, such as to a private or charter school or other educational facilities, as well as getting your child additional treatment. Such incidents and behavior can be indicative of a larger problem in your child’s life and require a specialist such as a substance-abuse counselor, psychiatrist, neurologist, or behaviorist.
How an Expulsion Could Affect Your Child’s Future
An expulsion is usually erased once a child graduates from high school. But some offenses, such as possessing certain kinds of weapons, stay on your child’s school records.
College applications will ask your child if he or she was ever expelled or suspended. Your child should answer truthfully and can explain what happened, as well as anything learned from the experience.
Any criminal charges that result from an incident leading to your child’s expulsion are again a separate matter. How they appear on your child’s public record varies depending on the offense and punishment.
How an NJ School Expulsion Lawyer Can Help
The school expulsion attorneys at the Susan Clark Law Group LLC sympathize with families with special needs because we also have children with disabilities. We’re determined to provide the legal advice, support, and resources necessary for your child to succeed.
Whether you need someone to advocate for your child at a hearing, or you’d like help filing an appeal about a disciplinary decision, you can count on our thorough and compassionate representation.
We’re also here to answer any questions you have about expulsion or alternate placement plans, and how these affect your child’s services and educational success.
Please call us today or contact us online for a free consultation. We’re ready to review your situation, discuss your legal options, and offer advice about how our school expulsion attorneys can help.