What should you do if your child has been suspended from school for fighting?
If your child is suspended for fighting, you may be able to challenge the disciplinary action against them through an informal suspension hearing or a suspension meeting. In California, students who were simply defending themselves when attacked often receive suspensions for fighting, so it’s essential that you stand up for them as a parent. By challenging the suspension, you may be able to have it revoked and removed from your child’s record.
The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that, under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a student cannot be suspended from a public school without first receiving a meeting or similar process where they can present their side of the story and argue against the suspension.
Although schools are not required to provide the same level of due process to students that courts must give to criminal defendants, at the very least, schools must permit suspended students to respond to the allegations against them and present evidence in their defense. Students also have the right to have an attorney or legal representative present at their suspension meeting.
California Law on Fighting and School Punishment
Under California Education Code 48900, a student can be suspended or expelled for fighting if they do any of the following:
- Cause, attempt to cause, or threaten to cause physical injury to someone else.
- Intentionally use force or violence against someone else when not acting in self-defense.
Although the law identifies self-defense as an excuse for using force or violence against someone else, California schools are notorious for suspending any student involved in a fight, even if they were not the instigator and actually were defending themselves. If your child has been suspended for fighting in a situation like this, it is absolutely vital that you appeal the suspension.
When a student is suspended, the school must provide a written notice explaining the reason for the suspension to their parents. The school should also schedule a suspension meeting or an informal meeting where the student, their parents, and their attorney (if they have one) can tell their side of the story.
As a parent, if the school does not provide you notice or schedule a meeting after your child has been suspended, you should promptly send a written request for the school administration to schedule a meeting to discuss the suspension.
How to Appeal
In California, the principal venue for appealing a school suspension for fighting is an informal suspension meeting. During this session, the suspended student and their parents can meet with the school’s administrators, present their side of the story and defend themselves, and try to persuade the administration to reverse the suspension. The student can also present any evidence that supports their defense and bring an attorney or legal advocate to represent them.
How can I get ready for the meeting?
To get ready for a suspension meeting, you should gather evidence that supports your child’s side of the story, such as security camera footage, relevant medical records, and cell phone video of the incident. This type of evidence can prove that your child was acting in self-defense and that they were not the instigator of the fight.
Additionally, you should interview any witnesses to the fight to determine what happened. If the witness saw something that could help you defend your child, you can ask the witness to write a statement explaining what they saw occur. Witnesses who can testify to what caused the fight can be particularly helpful when a student is suspended for a fight instigated by another student.
When a suspension appeal is successful, the school administration will reverse the suspension and remove it from the student’s academic record. However, suppose the school refuses to overturn your child’s suspension and suspends them in violation of California law. In that case, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the school for wrongful suspension.
If your child has been suspended from school for fighting, you should discuss your situation with an experienced education lawyer as soon as possible. The best-case scenario is to consult with a lawyer before the suspension meeting, as an education attorney can help you collect evidence and develop the best strategy for defending your child. Your lawyer can even come with you to the suspension meeting and help you present your arguments clearly and effectively.
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