Note: This information is from our manual, Discipline in Public Schools.
How long can a long-term suspension last?
A long-term suspension is a suspension that is more than 10 days, with an end date of not more than the length of an academic term. It can't make the student lose more than one semester's or trimester's grades or credit during a school year, and it can't continue past the school year when the alleged misbehavior happened. The length of an academic term is set by the district. So, first, check to see if your district does semesters or trimesters, and how many days are in each semester or trimester.
- If your district does two semesters of 90 days each, then the maximum length of a long-term suspension would be 90 days.
- If your district does three trimesters of 60 days each, then the maximum length of a long-term suspension would be 60 days.
How long can an expulsion last?
Just like a long-term suspension, an expulsion has to have an end-date and it cannot be for more days than there are in one academic term. There are some differences between an expulsion and a long-term suspension. While a long-term suspension cannot carry over into the next school year, an expulsion might. Also, with an expulsion a district has the option to petition to extend it in limited circumstances. One situation where an expulsion might be longer is if there is a violation of the rule against bringing or having a firearm at school, on the bus or at a school activity. In those cases, federal law requires an expulsion of not less than one year, although it does allow a superintendent to modify the expulsion on a case- by-case basis.
Can an expulsion be extended beyond the length of one academic term?
Yes, but only in limited circumstances. An expulsion can only be extended if:
- The school petitions the school district superintendent to extend the expulsion, and
- There is evidence that, if the student were to return at the end of the expulsion, that they would pose a risk to public health or safety.
The petition to extend an expulsion must include:
- A detailed description of the student's misconduct, the school rules that were violated and the public health and/or safety concerns of the district;
- A detailed description of the student's academic, attendance and discipline history;
- A description of other, less severe consequences that were considered and why those were rejected;
- A description of all alternative learning programs, vocational programs or other educational services that may be available to the student;
- The proposed length of the extended expulsion;
- Information about special education services or accommodations the student receives under Section 504, if applicable; and
- A proposed date for a re-engagement meeting.
A school can submit the petition to extend an expulsion any time after the expulsion starts, but before it ends. The school district must give a copy of the petition to the student and parent in person or by certified mail. The petition must be provided in your language if you do not read English.
Do I have a right to challenge a petition to extend an expulsion?
Yes, you have up 10 school days to give the district a written or verbal response after the petition is delivered to you. After you have a chance to respond, the Superintendent must make a decision. The Superintendent's decision must be made sometime between the 11th and 20th day after the petition is delivered to you. The Superintendent's decision must be put in writing, and it must include an explanation of your rights and the process for appeal. If the Superintendent grants the extension, then you have up to 10 school business days after you receive the decision to appeal to the School Board. Remember, your child should still be receiving educational services, even if the expulsion from their regular school is extended.
What are my child's basic rights with long-term suspensions and expulsions?
Students in grades kindergarten through 4th grade cannot be given a long-term suspension. All students who are given long-term suspensions or expulsions have the right to receive educational services during the time they are out of school. School districts can only use long-term suspensions or expulsions in cases involving certain serious behaviors.
What are the categories of behavior that can lead to long-term suspension or expulsion?
Under state law, there are four categories of behavior that can be a basis for long-term suspension or expulsion. They are:
- A violation of RCW 28A.600.420 (which says a student who brings or has a firearm at school, on school transportation or at facilities while they are being used by the school, shall be expelled)
- An offense in RCW 13.04.155 (which includes certain violent offenses, sex offenses, inhaling toxic fumes, controlled substances offenses, liquor offenses, or certain crimes related to firearms, assault, kidnapping, harassment, and arson; this could include drugs or alcohol offenses, assault or harassment);
- Two or more violations of certain laws within a three-year period, including: criminal gang intimidation or other gang activity on school grounds, possessing dangerous weapons on school facilities, willfully disobeying school administrators or refusing to leave public property, or defacing or injuring school property; or
- Behavior that adversely impacts the health or safety of other students or educational
For any other kinds of behavior, school districts may not use long-term suspension or expulsion.
Is there a right to notice and an appeal before a long-term suspension or an expulsion?
Yes. You and your child should get a written notice, and have an opportunity to request a hearing, before the long-term suspension starts. That means, after the school has learned of the student's alleged misconduct, and decided they believe a long-term suspension is appropriate, but before the student would be sent home, the school should give you and your child written notice and a chance for a hearing with a hearing officer. If you ask for a hearing, the hearing would be set within the next 3 days, and the student could stay in school during that time. The student would only be sent home if the hearing officer agreed that the suspension was appropriate. In practice, schools often act quickly once they find out about an incident that is serious enough to be thinking about long-term suspension or expulsion. Sometimes a student is sent home right away on an “emergency expulsion” and then the emergency expulsion is “converted” to a long-term suspension.
What kind of notice should I expect for a long-term suspension or expulsion?
For long-term suspensions and expulsions, schools have to give students and their parents notice in writing. The notice should be given to you either in person, or sent by certified mail. In the notice, the school has to explain:
- What the student did (the alleged misconduct);
- The rules that were violated;
- The consequence the school is proposing (the length of the suspension);
- The right of the student and parents to request a hearing;
- The 3 day deadline for you to request a hearing after you get the notice (3 school business days, which doesn't count weekends or holidays); and
- An explanation that if you do not request a hearing within that 3 day timeline, that the district can consider that a waiver of your right to the hearing and they can go forward with the long-term suspension.
Notice in your Language
All notices regarding student discipline should be given to you in a language you can understand. If your primary language is not English and you have difficulty reading or understanding English, the district should be communicating with you in your language, using interpreters and providing written translations as needed. If you receive information in English, ask the school or district to provide a translation.
Three Days to Ask for a Discipline Hearing*
For long-term suspensions, expulsions or emergency expulsions, if you want the opportunity for a formal discipline hearing, you need to request it. You have 3 school business days after receiving notice of a long-term suspension, expulsion or emergency expulsion to ask for the hearing. If you do not request a hearing, or if you miss the 3 day deadline, the school can consider that a waiver of the right to a hearing. Check the notice of suspension or expulsion for details on when, where and how to submit a request for a hearing. *Starting in the 2019-20 school year, you will have at least 5 days to ask for a hearing. Read notices carefully for information about how and when to request a hearing.
What is the appeal process like for a long-term suspension or an expulsion?
For long-term suspensions, expulsions and emergency expulsions, students and parents have the right to request a discipline hearing with a neutral hearing officer, and the right to appeal to the school board. Read about what to expect before, during and after a discipline hearing in section on Discipline Hearings (starting at p.42).
What kind of educational services and supports should my child get during a long-term suspension or expulsion?
Educational services during any suspension, including a long-term suspension need to be sufficient for a student to keep up with their classes, and keep earning credits, if they are in high school. The district must consider whether your child will need transportation, or technology (such as a computer or access to the internet) that supports the educational services they are offering. If your child receives special education services, English language learner instruction, accommodations or other specialized supports, the educational services during a suspension or expulsion should incorporate those things. For students who will be out for more than 10 school days (on a long-term suspension or expulsion), the educational services must be in accordance with state rules for a “Course of Study.” Under state rules, a “Course of Study” can include various types of schooling or activities, each of which has specific requirements for making sure students have access to appropriate curriculum and instruction. They also generally require some kind of regular checking-in with students to make sure they are engaged and on track. A Course of Study includes:
- Regular instruction by a teacher or other staff, or by someone on contract with the district;
- An “Alternative Learning Experience” (ALE), which can include online programs, or parent-partnerships;
- A National Guard high school career training program;
- Additional or ‘ancillary' services, like counseling, speech therapy, health care services, etc.;
- Work-based learning;
- Running Start;
- Transition School at University of Washington or technical college; or
- A Re-engagement Program (like an Open Doors program).
For each student who faces a long-term suspension, there should be a contact person who works with the school and can help make sure the student is actually getting access to supports, and troubleshoot problems that might come up.
When should I hear about the educational services my child will get during a long-term suspension or expulsion?
As soon as reasonably possible after the suspension or expulsion starts, the district must give you and your child written notice explaining the educational services it will provide and the name and contact information of someone who can help keep the student current with assignments and course work. To make sure the educational services will be appropriate, you and your child should have the chance to weigh in on the plan for educational services. Check to be sure both you and your child have the name and contact information for the staff person who will be responsible for helping coordinate educational services. Also, be sure that person has your contact information.
Is a Reengagement Meeting required when there is a long-term suspension or expulsion?
Yes. For information on the reengagement process, check the section on Getting Back to School after Suspensions and Expulsion (starting at p. 36).
After the end date of a suspension or expulsion, can a district keep my child from returning to their regular school setting?
No. However, there are some limited situations where a school district might require a student to change classes after a suspension or expulsion has ended. A Washington state law, RCW 28A.600.460, includes a list of certain offenses, which, if a student commits one of them against a teacher, then the student cannot return to that teacher's class, either at the original school, or in any school where the teacher is assigned. That law also says that if a student commits one of those offenses against another student, then the student who committed the offense may be removed from the classroom of the victim for the duration of the student's attendance, either at that school, or at any other school where the victim is enrolled. The offenses listed in RCW 28A.600.460 include an offense under the following state criminal laws:
- 36 (includes, among others: assault, and malicious harassment);
- 40 (includes, among others: kidnapping, trafficking and luring a person with a developmental disability);
- 46 (includes, among others: harassment and criminal gang intimidation); or
- 48 (includes, among others: arson and malicious mischief).
Generally, though, after the suspension or expulsion ends, your child should be able to return to their regular educational setting. Sometimes both a school and a family will decide that a change of schools would be best. You might agree that it makes sense to finish up a semester, or a school year at a program that the student is in during a long-term suspension or expulsion before transitioning back to their regular educational setting. When a student is given a long-term suspension or expulsion, school districts are required to invite you to a meeting to develop a “Re-engagement Plan.” The re-engagement plan meeting can be a good opportunity to talk about the pros and cons of a possible change in schools or programs.