School Discipline in Elementary, Middle, and High School

Suspension or expulsion from school is serious and has lasting consequences. High school students who are suspended or expelled will very likely have to disclose that information on college applications. Extended absences from school due to suspension can have a significant impact on a child’s academic progress. Given these far ranging consequences, families must ensure that schools follow a fair process when making disciplinary decisions. This requires knowledge of Maryland school discipline laws and local school district policies and an understanding of how they apply to the facts of a specific case. Legal advocacy can make the difference in whether a student gets suspended at all, how long a suspension lasts, and whether expungement (removing the suspension from the record) may be possible.

Despite protections in the law, some students are at a higher risk of suspension than others. In Maryland, students of color and students with disabilities are suspended and expelled at rates far higher than white students and students without disabilities. Research shows that this disparity is due to conscious and unconscious biases of adults in schools, not because students of color or those with disabilities misbehave more often. In some instances, these children are unfairly or illegally suspended or expelled from school. In these cases, it is critical to work with a special education attorney or advocate who can secure a fair and equitable outcome for your child.

There are many reasons why a student may be disciplined and only a few of those reasons relate to simple misbehavior. There may be underlying issues that affect the situation such as undiagnosed disabilities or attention issues, disabilities that are misunderstood or underestimated, or harm caused by unaddressed bullying. As there are special considerations for students with disabilities, laws and regulations that govern school discipline provide additional protections for students with disabilities facing suspension or expulsion. It is crucially important to understand the connection between disability and the school disciplinary process in order to ensure that a student is not penalized unfairly or for behaviors they cannot control, and is afforded their full rights in the discipline process.

If your child has been suspended, we can work with your family to get them back into school quickly and to identify and address any contributing underlying factors that might lessen the severity of the consequence. We represent all children facing discipline issues, including those in general and special education in public school, those attending independent (private) schools, and those in non-public placements.

We help families manage a wide range of school discipline issues that occur in various settings. Examples of the discipline issues we regularly encounter include:

  • A child is unfairly disciplined for a behavior that is related to their disability (like autism or ADHD)
  • A student posts something on social media that violates a school code of conduct or that the school finds objectionable for another reason
  • A child with a behavioral disability acts impulsively and is disciplined for that behavior
  • A student is caught fighting in school
  • A victim of bullying is disciplined when they eventually respond
  • A student is suspended for violating school rules
  • A student is expelled for violating school rules
  • A private school student is expelled or asked to disenroll