Behaviour > Disciplinary consequences >
What is suspension?
Suspension is a serious disciplinary consequence applied to address inappropriate behaviour. If a student is suspended, it means that they are required to stay away from school for a set period of time.
A short suspension is from 1-10 days and the student or parents are not able to appeal the principal's decision.
A long suspension is 11-20 days. The student or his/her parent or someone else on his/her behalf, is entitled to appeal to the Director-General, Department of Education, Training and Employment for a review of a long suspension decision. The principal will send the student and his/her parent a letter outlining the reasons for the decision, the facts supporting the decision and how they can appeal.
A charge-related suspension continues until the charge is dealt with or until the principal decides that the student can attend school. Dealt with, in relation to a charge against a student for an offence, means any of the following:
- the student is acquitted or convicted of the charge
- the student is convicted of another offence arising out of substantially the same acts or omissions as those constituting the charge
- the charge is withdrawn or dismissed or the trial is discontinued.
A student or his/her parent or someone else on his/her behalf is entitled to appeal to the Director-General, Department of Education, Training and Employment for a review of long suspension decisions when the student is given a charge-related suspension. The principal sends the student and his/her parent a letter outlining the reasons for the decision, the facts supporting the decision and how they can appeal. A student or his/her parent or someone else on his/her behalf, can provide the principal with additional information at any stage during a charge-related suspension. The principal must consider that information and decide whether to end the suspension or propose to exclude the student.
Students cannot be excluded on the grounds of the charges- they can only be excluded if they are convicted of an offence and the principal is reasonably satisfied that it is not in the best interests of other students or staff for the student to attend the school.
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What can a student be suspended for?
The school's Responsible Behaviour Plan for Students describes the behaviour that is expected and the types of disciplinary consequences that may be used. A principal of a state school can suspend a student from their school on the following ground/s:
- conduct that adversely affects, or is likely to adversely affect, other students
- conduct that adversely affects, or is likely to adversely affect, the good order and management of the school
- the student is charged with a serious offence (as defined in the Commission for Children Young People and Child Guardian Act 2000)
- the student is charged with an offence, other than a serious offence and the principal is reasonably satisfied it would not be in the best interests of other students or staff for the student to attend the school while the charge is pending.
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What does a principal need to consider before suspending a student?
The principal must consider the appropriate disciplinary strategy in line with the school's Responsible Behaviour Plan for Students. The principal must also consider the individual circumstances such as the student's behaviour history, disability, mental health and wellbeing, religious and cultural considerations, home environment and care arrangements.
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What is the process for suspension?
If suspension is considered an appropriate disciplinary consequence the steps that a school takes when issuing a suspension are outlined in detail in the Safe, supportive and disciplined school environment procedure.
All approved forms are available in OneSchool and prompts, examples and rules guide a principal through the suspension process. School staff are also expected to operate within the Code of School Behaviour[an error occurred while processing this directive]. The principal notifies the student, and his/her parent if the student is aged under 18 years, of the suspension verbally and in writing. The school is required to enable the student to continue his/her education during the suspension. In a charge-related suspension a regional case manager is appointed to assist with this. The school may provide school work or have the student complete assignments.
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When should principals contact the Queensland Police Service (QPS)?
The Queensland Police Service should be contacted when the principal plans to apply a disciplinary consequence because the student has been/may have been charged. Where police are investigating an incident the principal is not prohibited from investigating the matter and can take disciplinary action. The principal should speak with the investigating officer to ensure the school investigation does not compromise the QPS investigation. The primary responsibility of the principal is to maintain the good order and management of the school and manage the risk a student may present to other students and staff.
New guidelines have been developed to assist principals with requesting information from the Queensland Police Commissioner442K and guidance around undertaking risk assessment1.0M.
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Why is procedural fairness important?
Procedural fairness in this type of decision making is about a person's right to be told the allegations against them, a reasonable opportunity to see and consider the evidence relied upon by the decision maker, a reasonable opportunity to present their case and be given a fair hearing before the decision is made and the right to have a decision made by an unbiased decision maker.
Students can ask the Director-General to review a long suspension or a charge-related suspension.
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This page was last reviewed on 19 Mar 2015 at 04:30PM
EDUCATION IS a very important right for every child. Every child between birth and age 21 has the right to a free and appropriate public education. To exclude a child from school is a serious loss for the child, the family, and society.
Because education is so important, schools must follow certain procedures before a child is excluded. Longer exclusions from school require more detailed and complex procedures.
What procedures must a school follow to suspend a child from school?
A suspension is an exclusion from school for one to 10 consecutive school days.
To suspend a student for up to three days, the school must tell the student the reasons for the suspension and give the student a chance to tell his or her side of the story.
To suspend a student for more than three days, the school must provide the student an informal hearing. Students have the following rights when involved in an informal hearing:
- Both the student and his or her parent(s) or guardian must receive written notice of the reasons for the proposed suspension.
- The notice must state where and when the hearing will be held and allow a reasonable time to prepare for it.
- The student or the student's attorney has the right to ask questions of (cross-examine) any witnesses who are present at the hearing.
- The student also has the right to speak and present witnesses and other evidence.
Even if suspended, a student may make up exams and work missed, within guidelines set by the school board.
Before an in-school suspension, the student must be informed of the reasons and given an opportunity to respond. If an in-school suspension lasts more than 10 consecutive school days, the student and the student's parent(s) or guardian must be offered an informal hearing with the principal on or before the 11th day.
What procedures must a school follow to expel a child?
An expulsion is an exclusion from school for more than 10 days. To expel a child from school, the school district must provide the student a formal hearing.
Students have the following rights when the school district conducts a formal hearing:
- To have an attorney. Although it is not required, it is a good idea to have one.
- To obtain the names of witnesses against the student and copies of any of their written statements.
- To request that witnesses against the student come in person to the hearing to answer questions or be cross-examined.
- To speak and present witnesses and other evidence for the student's side.
- To have a record (for example, a tape recording) made of the hearing.
- To have a hearing held within a reasonable time.
- To have a public hearing if the student or parent asks for one; otherwise, the hearing will be private.
- To appeal a decision against the student in court.
Can children with disabilities be suspended or expelled from school?
For children with mental retardation, any proposed exclusion from school is considered a change in placement. If the school believes the student's behavior is severely dangerous, the school district must contact the state Division of Compliance for permission to change the child's placement. The parent(s) or guardian must be given advance notice of the exclusion and of their right to challenge it through the special education hearing and appeal process.
For a student with a disability other than mental retardation, the laws about suspension and expulsion are too complicated to summarize in this brochure. If your child is in special education and the school district is suspending the child frequently (more than 10 school days), you should consider doing all of the following:
- Contact an attorney or parent advocacy group for assistance.
- Ask the district in writing to convene the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team to discuss a behavior management plan for the student.
- Call the Special Education Consult Line at 1-800-879-2301 for information about how the laws apply to your child's situation.
Does a student who has been expelled have the right to an education?
Even after expulsion, students under 17 must be provided an education. Once a student has been expelled, it becomes the parent's responsibility to provide the required education by, for example, placing the student in another school, getting a tutor, or setting up some other educational program approved by the school district's superintendent.
But if the parents give the school district written evidence that they have been unable to arrange an educational program for the expelled student, the school district has the responsibility to provide for the child's education. This does not necessarily mean the student will be readmitted to the school but could include, for example, home instruction.
When a disabled student is suspended or excluded from school or moved to another placement, school officials must still provide the student a free, appropriate public education, in accordance with an IEP.
Can schools use corporal punishment on children?
Pennsylvania law forbids physical punishment of a student unless allowed by guidelines set by the local school board. Even then, only reasonable punishment may be used. Punishment which causes injury is not reasonable. If physical punishment is allowed under school board guidelines, all parents must be told of this.
Except in very limited circumstances (for example, self-defense), corporal punishment may not be used if a student's parents tell the school that they do not wish it used.
Where can I get more information?
For more information about suspension and expulsion from school, contact the Special Education Consult Line at 1-800-879-2301.
The law often changes. Each case is different. This pamphlet is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice.
Please use the information found in this brochure carefully since the law is constantly changing and the information may not accurately reflect any changes in the law that occurred following the creation and publication of the brochure.
Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc.
118 Locust Street
Harrisburg, PA 17101
This public information pamphlet was edited by Neighborhood Legal Services Association and produced by Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc.