Education Law

What Kinds of Behavior Can Lead to Suspension From School?

By E.A. Gjelten, Author and Editor
Depending on where you live, your child could be suspended from school for anything from hurting another student to talking back to teachers.

If school officials are threatening to suspend your child, you’ll want to know how the process works and what you can do to protect your child’s rights. But your first questions may be: What is my child actually accused of doing? And is that enough to warrant a suspension? Schools can actually impose many different types of punishment for misbehavior. But out-of-school suspension is one of the most serious, with potentially far-reaching consequences. As the U.S. Department of Education has explained, students who are suspended are more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, or even end up in juvenile court.

The grounds for suspending a student vary from state to state, but they typically include:

  • injuring someone, or trying or threatening to do so
  • possessing or giving someone else a gun, knife, or another dangerous object
  • possessing, using, or being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, or giving them to another student
  • harassing or bullying other students (including sexual harassment and cyberbullying)
  • stealing or trying to steal from another person or the school itself
  • damaging property, or trying to do so
  • engaging in obscene acts or habitual profanity
  • repeatedly disrupting school activities, and
  • continuing to disobey or defy teachers or other school officials.

Clearly, reasons like “open defiance of authority” leave a lot of room for interpretation. Some states go even further, by allowing schools to suspend or expel students for anything that’s considered “good cause.” (To learn more about the rules in your state, see this search tool for school discipline laws and regulations by state.)

Off-Campus Behavior

Students can be suspended for misconduct that occurs off school grounds, such as:

  • at a school activity
  • on the way to or from school
  • during lunch period off campus, or
  • when they pose a threat of harm to themselves, to others in the school, or to school property.

When Should You Talk to a Lawyer?

If your child has been accused of misconduct that could lead to a suspension, you’ll want to know how to approach the discipline proceedings and protect your child’s rights. An attorney who specializes in education law should be able to help.

Questions for Your Lawyer

  • Can the school discipline my child based on off-campus activities that were not school-related (such as an arrest that occurred while on vacation in another state)?
  • Can the school suspend my child for simply mouthing off or being disrespectful?
  • If I’ve received notice that my child is being suspended or expelled from school, how and when can I request a hearing? If I disagree with the hearing examiner’s decision, how can I appeal?

Go to main school discipline FAQ page.

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