A Parents’ Guide to School Suspensions and Expulsions in Pennsylvania Public Schools
This guide will provide general information to parents in Pennsylvania who are facing issues of suspension and expulsion in the context of public schools in Pennsylvania. The difference between suspension and expulsion explained; the procedural differences with suspension and expulsion will be addr
The Difference between Suspension and ExpulsionIn Pennsylvania, any out of school disciplinary placement greater than ten (10) days is considered to be an expulsion. Any placement equal to or less than ten (10) days is considered to be a suspension. The administration of a school district has the ultimate authority to impose a suspension; however, only an affirmative vote of the board of school directors can impose an expulsion.
The Administrative ProcessAs a parent, you need to understand that the discipline process is controlled by the school administration. Aside from certain exceptions (special education and 504 plans), your school administration has, more or less, unfettered authority to suspend your child for up to ten (10) days.
After an incident involving your child, the school (probably the building principal) will inform you of the punishment. If the punishment is three (3) days suspension or less, then you will be informed that your child can go back to school after the completion of the suspension. If the school is considering an out of school disciplinary placement of greater than three (3) days, then the school must conduct an informal meeting with the child's parents/legal guardians. At this meeting the school will inform you of any additional punishment for your child. If the school decides to suspend your child for an additional seven (7) days (for a total of ten (10)), then it will inform you of that fact and tell you that your child may come to school after the 10th day. If the school informs you that the administration is considering expulsion, then you will be told that your child is being suspended for the addition seven (7) days and inform you that it is recommending that the district's board of school directors expel your child. At this meeting the administrator should give you paperwork informing you of its intent to seek expulsion and explaining your rights, including your right to be represented by counsel.
The Expulsion ProcessIf the administration seeks expulsion, then the board of school directors must act to expel before the expiration of the ten (10) day suspension period (unless you as the parent request a continuance of up to fifteen (15) days). The reason that that board needs to act before the ten (10) day suspension has expired is that the child may go back to school on day eleven (11) if the board has not imposed expulsion by then. You will be advised that you have a right to be represented by an attorney and a right to a formal hearing before the board. At this hearing before the board you will be able to challenge the district's case and present evidence of your own. You will have the opportunity to challenge whether your child is "guilty" of the offense alleged, and also whether expulsion is the proper remedy for such conduct. The final decision to expel a student must be by an affirmative vote of the board of school directors taken at a public meeting. Your child will not be identified by name, but by an identifying letter or number in order to protect his or her privacy.
If your child is expelled by the board of school directors, then you have the right to appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of the county in which the school is located under the local agency law.
The AftermathA student that has been expelled still has the right to an education. Under Pennsylvania law, students of compulsory school age must be provided with an education. If your child has been expelled from school, you need to inform the school of whether you can provide for the education of your child; if you cannot, then the school must make provision for the child's education within ten (10) days.
The Steps You Should Take Now*Consult with an attorney experienced in school disciplinary matters
*Talk with your child and gather as much information about the circumstances as possible
*Instruct your child not to talk to anyone else involved in the incident, either in person or through texting and/or social media
*Obtain a copy of the student hand book from the school
*Ask the school for a printout of your child's disciplinary and attendance records
*Research up the student discipline policies on the district's website, or ask for a hard copy from the school