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School Suspensions and Expulsions During the Holidays

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If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), you may find yourself at this time of the year telling yourself, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”….. but not in a good way. It’s never easy to deal with a child being suspended or expelled. It is even harder to deal with when the child has emotional or behavioral issues that are supposed to be addressed through an IEP. It is hardest of all when suspensions and expulsions of a child with an IEP happen right before long holiday breaks.

Our calls indicate that suspensions and expulsions increase as Winter Break approaches.  This can cause a lot of worries for families, especially if their child is suspended and they then spend the entire break wondering how the suspension will be resolved.

These are some things to keep in mind about school suspensions:

  • If the school calls to ask you to pick up your child due to their behavior, ask if they have been suspended. We encourage you to not pick up your child unless the school verifies that they are suspended and gives you paperwork to show that they are. You could be held liable for your child being truant if they are not suspended and you take them home.
  • Remember that a child with an IEP can only be suspended for a total of 10 days per school year before the IEP team meets to determine if the behaviors leading to the suspension(s) are related to the child’s disability. Sometimes schools skirt these guidelines by asking families to pick up a child with an IEP early or bring them to school late.  Those hours the child is not in class should count toward the ten days of suspension. If you find yourself in this situation, remember to ask the school for written verification that any time that the child is not in class learning is being counted toward the ten days of suspension.  If they do not provide this documentation, we encourage you to not pick up your child early from school or bring them in late.
  • If your child is suspended and you do not understand why, remember that you can ask for an IEP meeting at any time.
  • Become familiar with your school district’s code of conduct. Children with IEPs, like all students, are required to go by the district’s code of conduct, but they have more protections if there are violations. If your child is suspended, it should be for violating a rule in the Code of Conduct and the suspension paperwork should say what rule was violated. If you are not given this information, ask for it in writing and keep a record of the school’s response.
  • If your child has an IEP and they have been suspended for a total of ten days for the school year, the school must have a meeting to determine if the suspensions are related to the child’s disability.  You have a right to be part of this meeting and to present information that you think helps explain if your child’s behavior was related to their disability.  Remember, you know your child better than anyone, and you have important information about them and what contributes to their behavior.  You can use information from people working with your child if you think that would be helpful, but you do not have to share treatment information with the school unless you want to.
  • If your child does not have an IEP, but meets the criteria for having one, these protections still apply to them.
This article from Wright’s Law gives more information about suspensions and expulsions and your child’s and family’s rights. You are also welcome to call our office at 601-355-0915 or Mississippi Parent Training and Information Center if you have more questions. You can also call the Mississippi Department of Education’s Special Education Hotline at 601-359-3498.
[Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash]

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