What Happens if My Child with Special Needs Faces a Disciplinary Hearing?
When your child faces disciplinary action at school, it’s a scary and uncertain time. If your child has a disability and receives special education services, it’s even more complicated.
Behavior problems leave you worrying about your child’s educational future—and also whether their school is functioning properly.
Discipline issues that could lead to a significant suspension may mean your child will have a disciplinary and suspension hearing.
It’s like a small trial. And just like any trial, your child has a right to representation.
Many parents don’t realize their child has specific rights when there are both special education and discipline issues. We help children and families in both disciplinary and special education matters.
Keep reading for more about what you need to know if your child is facing a school disciplinary hearing. If you have questions about your specific situation, get in touch with us now. These cases are very time sensitive and families should consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
Special Considerations for Students with Disabilities Facing Disciplinary Hearings
If a child receiving special education services gets into significant trouble because of disruptive behavior at school, the school system is required to factor in how their disability may have affected the situation.
Before deciding on a lengthy suspension or other punishment, they must first determine:
- Did the behavior stem from the student’s disability?
- Did the behavior occur because the school failed to follow the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)?
If the answer to either of those questions is yes, the school may not be able to give the student the most severe punishment, such as a longer suspension. Instead, the student will return sooner to their regular educational setting.
An exception can occur in more serious cases of disruptive behavior, such as when a child breaks a law or causes harm to others.
In that case, the school may be able to send the child to an alternative educational setting for a period of time.
To make sure your child’s right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) under the law is protected during disciplinary proceedings, talk to the special education attorneys at Cuddy Law Firm.
What Happens in a School Disciplinary Hearing?
If your child’s case goes to a disciplinary hearing, the meeting will be led by a hearing officer who serves as the “judge” in disciplinary matters.
The school must present evidence and testimony from witnesses that prove the student behaved as he or she is accused of doing.
Like in a trial, parents have the right to question the school system’s witnesses and present witnesses and evidence on behalf of the child.
For the school system to handle this process appropriately, it’s important that they provide you, as a parent:
- Written notice of a suspension because of a behavioral problem
- Explanation of why your child is being suspended
- Details on alternative school settings where your child may be sent
- The date when a disciplinary and suspension hearing will take place
- A full file of all the evidence and documents that the school system will present at the hearing
To make sure your child gets a fair process, don’t let the school system withhold any of this information from you—or wait until the last minute to give it to you.
An experienced special education lawyer knows the procedures that must be followed and can press the school system to complete the proper steps.
The school system will often hold a conference before the hearing takes place where a parent can declare that they intend to get legal representation before proceeding with a hearing.
The Cuddy Law Firm has helped families in multiple states for many years address these types of cases.
To protect your child’s rights in a disciplinary or suspension hearing, move beyond problems at school and preserve opportunities for your child—reach out to Cuddy Law.