Getting Back to School after Suspensions or Expulsions

Getting Back to School after Suspensions or Expulsions

Note: This information is from our manual, Discipline in Public Schools.

Every expulsion or suspension must have an end date. That is, a date when the student can return to school. Check the discipline notice from the school to see when the suspension or expulsion is scheduled to end.

That is the latest date that a student should plan on returning to school (except in the limited circumstances when a school may petition to extend an expulsion see the section on Long-term Suspensions and Expulsions, at p. 29).

Conversations about how your child could get ready to return to school earlier than the end date of the suspension or expulsion can start right away, through an appeal or grievance process, through re-engagement planning and/or through a petition for readmission.

Schools are encouraged to work with students and their families to reduce the length of suspensions and expulsions when possible. There are several possible routes for a student to get back to school before the end date of the suspension or expulsion.

  • Discipline Hearings or Grievances (appeals) – if you appeal a long-term suspension, expulsion or emergency expulsion, and the hearing officer agrees that the student should not be removed from school, the student can return. If you request a meeting with the principal to grieve a short-term suspension, the principal can decide to shorten it.
  • Re-engagement Planning – for every long-term suspension or expulsion, schools are required to engage with students and families in re-engagement planning, and are encouraged to consider shortening the length of the suspension or expulsion as part of that planning.
  • Petitions for Readmission—students and their parents have the right to petition for readmission (to ask to be let back into school) any time after they are suspended or expelled – whether the suspension is short or long term.
  • District Discretion – in addition, a district could decide to reduce the length of a suspension or expulsion based on a student’s participation in counseling or treatment services, or completion of a drug or threat assessment.

You could also request to transfer to another school within the same district, or submit a non-resident student transfer application to another district. Districts can consider a student’s discipline history in deciding whether to grant a transfer request, but that does not necessarily mean a transfer request would be denied.

What are Re-engagement Plans?

The goals of re-engagement plans are to support a student in returning to school as soon as possible, with the supports the student will need to be successful when they return. Re-engagement plans must be culturally sensitive and culturally responsive, which means that they should take into account a student’s cultural background, traditions and strengths.

In developing the plan, districts should consider shortening the length of the suspension or expulsion. The plan should also include steps to support the student’s continued academic progress and keep the student on track to graduate.

Plans should be tailored to the individual circumstances of the student. The plan should take into account the incident that led to the suspension or expulsion and help the student identify and take steps to remedy the situation caused by the student’s behavior.

You can read more about preparing for Re-engagement meetings in OEO’s Tips for Families, available at www.oeo.wa.gov and also attached as an appendix in this guide.

Should every student who is suspended or expelled have a Re-engagement Plan?

Every student who is given a long-term suspension or expulsion should have a re-engagement plan. That includes students who have a 504 plan and students with an IEP.

Remember, the rules regarding discipline for students with disabilities give additional protections to make sure students are not punished for behavior caused by a disability. Students with disabilities have all the same rights and protections as other students under the general discipline rules, and extra protections under special education rules.

Re-engagement plans are not required if a student is given a short-term suspension or an emergency expulsion. However, many schools do ask families to meet with them after any suspension to talk about what happened, and how to avoid any further problems.

If you do not get an invitation from the school, you can ask the school to meet with you before your child returns from a short-term suspension or an emergency expulsion. Even a few days out of the classroom can set a student back with their academics. Suspensions and expulsions also affect students’ relationships with their teachers and other students. Taking time to meet and talk through what happened, consider whether an apology would be appropriate, and make sure your child, and their teacher, are ready for the first day back can help avoid further problems.

Who develops the Re-engagement Plan?

School districts are required to collaborate with you and your child in the development of the Re-engagement Plan. Families must have an opportunity to give meaningful input to the plan.

Ask for an Early Re-engagement Meeting

Anytime a student is given a long-term suspension or an expulsion, the school is required to invite the student and family for a re-engagement meeting to develop a plan for the student’s successful return to school.
You do not have to wait for the school’s invitation to a re-engagement meeting. If you request one, the school should work with you to plan one as soon as possible.

When will a Re-engagement Plan meeting be scheduled?

Schools should invite you to a re-engagement meeting either:

  • Within 20 days of the start of the suspension or expulsion; but
  • No later than 5 days before the student will return to school.

You don’t have to wait for the school to call you. If you call to ask for an early re-engagement meeting, then the school should work with you to plan one as soon as possible.

Should I get a copy of the Re-engagement Plan?

Yes. Re-engagement plans should be written, and you should get a copy. It can be a helpful reference and reminder as your child is working toward meeting expectations or goals for getting back to school.

You can ask for a translation of the plan into your primary language if you do not read English.

What is a Petition for Readmission?

Students who have been suspended or expelled can ask to be readmitted at any time.

Every school district is required to have a policy and procedure for how students can petition for readmission. There is usually some information in the district’s discipline policy. You should be able to get more details by calling the school or district office. You can ask for guidance on:

  • Where should the petition for readmission be sent?
  • What should be included in the petition?
  • Who decides whether to approve or deny the petition?
  • Will there be an opportunity to speak to the decision- makers?
  • Can my child bring people to help make the case for readmission?
  • Are there any expectations that my child should try to meet in order to get the petition approved?

It is up to the school district to decide whether to grant a petition for readmission. In order to increase the chances that the petition will be granted, think about how to address concerns the school or district might have based on what led to the suspension or expulsion.

How can I make a petition for readmission strong?

Think about why the school decided to suspend or expel your child in the first place. Some schools use suspensions or expulsions only when they think there is a chance a student will hurt someone else, or cause a disruption to the school if they were still there. Schools hope that students understand that what they did was wrong (when they violate a rule) and why the rule is important.  Some schools believe that not suspending or expelling a student who has broken a rule would send a message to students that the misbehavior is okay.

Think about how to acknowledge any harm caused, offer an apology and a plan to try to repair the harm where possible. Keep in mind:

  • If your child might also be facing criminal charges, be sure to talk with an attorney before asking your child to make an admission or write an apology for the incident. Criminal consequences can be very severe and long-lasting. Without the advice of an attorney it is hard to know how a statement might be used against your child in a possible criminal case.
  • In cases of bullying or harassment, it is generally not recommended to ask the students to meet to talk about it. If your child has been accused of bullying or harassing another student and wants to apologize, talk with the school principal or a school counselor about having your child write a letter that the other student can read if they choose to. Another option might be to have your child write a letter to the teacher or the principal instead of to the other student directly.

Think about how to show efforts your child has made since the incident to learn from it, address any problems and try to move forward. That might include:

  • Getting into counseling
  • Completing anger management
  • Participating in drug/alcohol treatment
  • Attending another school program
  • Working
  • Participating in activities with peers such as sports, arts classes, camp,
  • Being involved in organized groups such as church, scouts, team sports
  • Volunteering and community service.

You may want to ask other adults, mentors, and supervisors to write letters of support or bring supporters to the meeting where the petition for readmission is reviewed.

Help your child outline their long-term goals, strengths, and interests. Include this information into the petition for readmission.

Think creatively about ways that your child could return to school. For example, if the district seems reluctant to grant the petition, try proposing that your child return to school for a probationary period, attend half days, abide by a behavior plan, or get extra support. The district may be more willing to let your child back in gradually or with support. If you agree to a plan with shortened days, be sure that it would not extend past the end date of the original suspension or expulsion.