April 2022 —
The MLO Minute: By Heather Hulse, J.D., M.S., M.A., Lead attorney in our Northeastern Pennsylvania Office —
Parents are often not aware of the serious long-term impact an expulsion on their child’s record can have. When your child has been expelled from school, it can affect their acceptance into college, post-secondary programs, other high schools, military programs, and career/job programs. It is imperative that parents, particularly parents of special education students or students that may be special education students not yet identified, to consult with an attorney if their child’s school district is pursuing expulsion or has offered an expulsion agreement.
Expulsion agreements are often offered to parents of children who school districts are seeking to expel. First, an expulsion agreement is effectively agreeing to an expulsion while waiving all legal rights including the right to an attorney. Thus, there is often no meaningful advantage to such an agreement, as your child will have an expulsion on their permanent record. Moreover, school districts often use expulsion agreements to obtain agreement for further consequences or requirements of their child. For example, expulsion agreements may include provisions such as agreement for the child to undergo forensic psychiatric evaluations at the expense of the family or a requirement to reapply for admission into a public school at the end of the expulsion period. Parents should also be particularly concerned if the expulsion agreement includes a provision that specifically waives the right to an attorney or for an attorney to review the expulsion agreement.
Parents of special education students or students that have been demonstrating needs indicative of requiring special education services should be particularly careful and consult with a special education attorney when their child’s school district is seeking to expel them. Special education students have additional rights pursuant to federal law. For example, it must be determined whether the action of the student was a manifestation of their disability. Furthermore, special education students must still be provided with a free appropriate public education that addresses the complete educational needs of the student.
It is also important to note that even though expulsion of students should be a consequence of last resort and reserved for the most serious student behaviors, school districts sometimes pursue an expulsion for less serious offenses. It is important for an attorney to carefully review the school district’s expulsion policies, as it is not uncommon for expulsion agreements to provide for expulsion of students that are not offenses that expellable offenses pursuant to the school district’s policies.
If your school district is seeking to expel your child, you have been offered an expulsion agreement, or your child is frequently engaging in behaviors in school resulting in disciplinary action, please feel free to contact our office. Our initial consultation is free and these matters are often handled on a contingency basis without hourly fees charged to families.