Classroom Exclusions – Authority, Limits and Notice
Note: This information is from our manual, Discipline in Public Schools.
The state’s new school discipline rules include provisions that schools must follow if a teacher decides a student should be removed from a classroom. This is called a “Classroom Exclusion” in the state rules.
Teachers are the ones who have much of the responsibility for making sure classrooms are safe and productive places for all students to learn, so teachers also have authority to remove a student if they are being disruptive or unsafe.
Specifically, teachers have the authority to exclude or remove a student for behavior that disrupts the classroom if there is:
- Continuing Disruptive Behavior: If the student’s behavior is disrupting the class, and the teacher has tried other things to support the student in meeting behavior expectations, but the disruptive behavior continues, the teacher can send the student out of the class.
- Immediate Threat of Continuing Disruption or Danger to Others: If the student’s presence is threatening to disrupt the class or put other students or staff in danger, the teacher can send the student out of class. (If there is an immediate threat of disruption or danger to others, a principal (or designee) has to be notified immediately).
In addition to classroom teachers, school districts can give other school staff the authority to decide if a student should be excluded from a class, or an instructional activity, for behavioral violations.
Decisions about suspensions and expulsions are generally made by principals or another administrator.
A student can be sent out of the classroom for up to the rest of the class period, or the rest of the school day.
A student cannot be kept out for more than the rest of that day unless they are being suspended, expelled or emergency expelled. The student cannot be sent home (out of the school) unless the school decides they should be suspended, expelled or emergency expelled.
If my child is removed from class, do they have a right to make up tests or assignments they missed?
Yes. If a student is excluded or removed from class for misbehavior, they still have the right to make up tests or assignments they missed while they were out.
The teacher is required to report the classroom exclusion, and the behavior that led to it, to the principal as soon as reasonably possible. The teacher or the principal is required to notify the parent as soon as reasonably possible.
Start by asking for a meeting with the teacher and the principal.
This can be an important opportunity to hear from the school about what they have been seeing, and to share your concerns with them.
If you still have concerns after talking with the principal, you can request a meeting with the Superintendent, or someone at the district level. If you still have concerns after that, you can ask to present your concerns to the school board at their next meeting.
If a student is getting in trouble often, it is important to try to understand why. The causes of behavior issues are not always clear, or easy to identify.
In some situations, repeated classroom exclusions or discipline referrals can be a sign that the student is struggling with academics, peer relationships or behavior expectations and may need more individualized supports. In other situations, it can be a reflection of a challenging classroom environment where a teacher may need help with implementing positive behavior supports.
It can be helpful to ask yourself, your child, and your child’s teacher and principal questions about what has been happening, like:
- Is my child having a difficult time in general with following rules, or engaging appropriately with peers both in school and out of school?
- Are the challenges occurring just in one classroom, or only at a particular time of day, or area of the school?
- Is it just my child, or are several students getting in trouble frequently in the same classroom, or area of the school?
- Are there similar behaviors happening repeatedly, or is it different behavior each time?
Sometimes frequent misbehavior or discipline can be a sign that a child might have a disability that is affecting their learning. Certainly not every child who misbehaves has a disability, nor does every child with a disability have challenges with behavior. However, sometimes a child who is struggling to keep up academically or meet the demands of the classroom will act out when they are frustrated or don’t know what else to do. If you suspect your child might have a disability (whether it is a learning disability, a developmental disability, an emotional or behavior-related disability or something else), you can ask the school district to do a comprehensive evaluation. You can find information about Supports for Students with Disabilities in the Learn About section of our website, www.oeo.wa.gov, or by clicking here: https://oeo.wa.gov/education-issues-topics/special-education/.
If your child seems to be getting in trouble for the same thing over and over again, it might be helpful to connect with the teacher, a school counselor and the principal and work on a plan to address it. The plan might involve teaching, or re-teaching what appropriate behavior would be in that situation, and making sure the adult responses to the behavior are not unintentionally reinforcing it.
If you are concerned that there are more general problems in the classroom or school environment, you can ask for a meeting with the principal and teacher, or reach out to someone at your school district’s office.