All students and their families should know their rights, whether or
not they seek to challenge a disciplinary decision. Well-informed
Educators, families, and community stakeholders can use this resource
Fair disciplinary practices in schools can be advocated with the following information
The booklet contains a number of links to the Internet that you can and should use
improve your school’s approach to discipline, get connected to other
families and organizations working on changing school discipline, and
get more information about protecting your rights. If you have any
trouble accessing these links, please contact the Education Law Center
for printed versions of each link.
Please be aware that this booklet is based on the New Jersey Special Education School Suspension Attorney. You may have more rights than this under your school’s code of conduct, but they are not absolute.There will be fewer. Ensure that your local code complies with state law by reviewing it and contacting the Education Law Center if it doesn’t.
New law in NJ:
- In traditional or charter schools, this applies to students in grades K-2
- Bans suspensions from school, except when they are due to conduct that is violent or sexual and endangers others
- Expulsions are prohibited except as specified in the “Zero Tolerance for Guns Act.”
Although African-American students make up 15% of NJ public school students, they make up 40% of those who receive out of school suspensions. Among the 23% of students enrolled in NJ public schools, 29% receive out-of-school suspensions.
National statistics In the 2013-14 school year:
◼ Disabled students were twice as likely to receive out-of-school suspensions as their peers without disabilities
◼ K-12 students of African descent were 3.8 times more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions than white students.
◼ There is a 2.2 times greater likelihood of African-American students receiving a referral to law enforcement or being arrested at school as white students
◼ American Indian or Alaska Native, Latino, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and multiracial boys were also disproportionately suspended from school, representing 15% of K-12 students but 19% of K-12 students receiving out-of-school suspensions.
Parent tip:In addition to asking for your student’s disciplinary records, you can get a copy of the behavior write-ups that did not result in disciplinary action to see what the school has done or not done for your student in the past. Those write-ups may include discipline records, attendance records, academic records, and copies of the school’s intervention and referral plans.
A school may suspend a student with a disability for up to 10 consecutive school days if the suspension does not constitute a “change in placement.” The school’s staff determines whether a “change in placement” occurred. They consider the following factors when making this decision:
◼ how many suspensions totaled more than 10 in one school year,
◼ Whether the student’s behavior is similar to that of previous incidents that led to her suspension,
◼ Additional factors, such as length of suspensions, duration of suspensions, and proximity of suspensions. Long-term suspension rules apply if school staff determines suspension is a change in placement
A school may suspend a student with a disability for more than 10 consecutive days when:
◼ There is no other provision in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)
◼ behavior of the student is not deemed to be a “manifestation” of the child’s disability.
What is a manifestation determination?
The district must hold a meeting within 10 school days of the suspension to determine whether the student’s conduct was a manifestation of the student’s disability. A student may be suspended more than 10 days if conduct does not constitute a manifestation. If conduct does constitute a manifestation, the student must return to school placement immediately, unless the 45-day exception applies. An assessment of functional behavioral needs to be conducted by the school. In this assessment, the school identifies the reasons for a student’s problem behavior(s), so a plan can be developed to address those reasons.