It’s any normal day. You’re at work, doing work stuff, and you get a call from the principal at your son’s school: he’s been suspended for three days for roughhousing on the bus. Or, maybe he’s already had a few mishaps in behavior and is now facing a much longer suspension. Or, maybe it’s a more serious offense and school personnel are already talking about expulsion proceedings. What can you, as a parent, do in response to these situations?

Before we discuss what you can do, I think it’s important to recognize the difference between the following natural consequences.

In-School Suspension (ISS): An in-school suspension is when your child is taken out of her regular classes and put into a separate room. She will need to complete all of her daily work and also spend her lunch break in this one room. This is probably the easier one to deal with as a parent because it doesn’t change your family’s daily routine much at all.

Out-of-School Suspension (OSS): An out-of-school suspension is usually a number of days when your child is not allowed to go to school, be on school grounds nor attend any school functions. The number of days can vary depending upon the severity of the behavior, whether or not there have been previous suspensions or other mitigating factors. If your child is not of an age where he can stay home alone, you will need to come up with some sort of plan for having him supervised during the day.

Expulsion: An expulsion, on the other hand, is a more serious consequence. Your child is basically removed from the school rosters and not allowed to attend school or school-related activities for a much longer period of time (a year or more). Sometimes, this may also include not being allowed on school property for any reason, even to attend a sibling’s sporting event, concert or graduation. While suspensions are usually instituted by the principal or vice principals of a school, an expulsion is a process that involves going before the school board or other educational administrative personnel for a hearing. It would be determined at this hearing whether or not your child will be expelled. Your child would also be allowed legal representation at this hearing.

(This is a general overview. The exact process may differ depending upon your state/school district. There are specific laws and time lines that must be adhered to in each case. If your child is facing expulsion, I would encourage you to speak with a lawyer who specializes in school law. You could also speak with someone in the Department of Education for your state about what the specific laws are. )

After the Phone Call: How to Handle the Suspension or Expulsion

I point out these differences above because many parents naturally panic when they get this call and it’s easy to respond in a manner that is less than effective. This panic is a pretty normal response which can lead to futurizing: “What is this going to mean for my child now and later on down the road?” It may be helpful to take a little time to process the information so you can address the issue with your child in as calm a manner as possible. I have even suggested to some parents when they contact the parent coaching service about this that they not talk with their child about what happened until the following day. It can help to look at it this way: your child is suspended, and yelling and screaming at him isn’t going to change that fact. Take some space from the issue can help you calm down and look at the situation from the perspective of “What do I want my child to learn here?”  When you’re able to talk with your child in a calm, rational manner, there’s a greater chance you can find out what his perception of the situation is — and possibly even problem solve with him about what he can do differently in the future.

Many parents question what they should do for consequences at home when their child has been suspended. Understandable question, but remember that there is already a consequence in place. While you don’t want this time off from school to be a vacation, taking away all of your child’s privileges isn’t going to teach him more. Instead, you might consider having him earn his privileges  each day by doing any school work that may have been sent home, having him work on any past-due work he owes, or having him work on chores during the time he would be in school. If possible, have him get up at the same time as he would for school. You don’t want to turn this into a power struggle, however. The way you solve this: if he’s not getting up and doing the work, he doesn’t earn his privileges. This may mean suspending his cell service, and taking the game controllers and/or internet router with you to work. Don’t expect him to limit his own behavior by not playing video games or spending the day on the computer; instead, set limits and take charge.  (When the issue is expulsion, the concept would be similar, but on a much longer time frame. Again, you don’t want the time out of school to be a vacation.)

If your child is on an IEP: As a side note, if your child is on an IEP, there are other procedures that must be followed, as outlined in IDEA 2004 (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). For example, if your child is suspended for more than 10 days, an alternative education plan has to be instituted. I actually got my start working in Special Education when I was employed by a school district to be a tutor for kids in this situation. Some districts have off-site alternative education programs for this purpose. Keep in mind that this alternative placement cannot go beyond 45 school days, however.  One thing that is  different for kids who receive Special Services and have an IEP is they must receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and, even in cases where the child is expelled, the school district must develop an education plan for your child.

Another thing that has to happen when a child who has an IEP is suspended for more than 10 days (total, not necessarily consecutive) is a Manifestation Determination meeting has to be scheduled. It will be determined at this meeting whether or not the action/behavior that resulted in suspension was a manifestation of the child’s specific disability and whether or not the IEP was not only appropriate but being implemented accordingly by the school.

School districts are required to send out a Notice of Parents’ Rights in Special Education Procedural Safeguards. It has been my experience that often these safeguards are written in “legalese,” in really tiny print and it’s a challenge for many parents to read and understand them. I would encourage you to talk with the Special Education director in your school district if you have any questions. There are many other rules and regulations outlined in IDEA, too many to cover in this short blog post. You might even consider finding out if there is an advocate, either through the district or your State Department of Education, available who would be able to walk you through these procedural safeguards and answer any questions you may have.

A final word: getting “that call” can feel like an endgame, but in reality, you can try looking at it as more of an intervention or a “call to action,” that gives you the opportunity to work with your child to develop better ways of dealing with challenging situations.

There are many other tools in The Total Transformation Program that will help you respond to your child’s behavior more effectively, helping you turn what seems like a hopeless situation into one with a much more promising outlook. Believe me, there is hope — I help parents find it every single day.

Related content:
When Your Child Has Problems at School: 6 Tips for Parents
“My Child Refuses to Do Homework” — How to Stop the Nightly Struggle Over School Work


Denise Rowden is a parent of two adult children and has been a parenting coach since 2010. She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Maine and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from the International Coach Federation.

Comments (14)
  • Constance
    My son is a senior in high school and was expelled today for a post you put on line those deemed unacceptable the hearing was absolutely brutal and you would think this board of directors had never seen the internet before and made my child out to be a monster.More I'm sad am angry and I feel pretty alone. My son is okay though and we're going to get through this. Social media is one of the worst things ever created. Kids need to know no matter what they post online they better be prepared for the school district to go through their page and call them out on anything that they might feel is threatening or violent even though the intention wasn't meant that way just sharing a post without making comment can change your whole child's future.
  • LeQuita
    My 13 yr old son took a unloaded gun to school, he has been exspelled for a calendar yr and from any county schools, I'm looking to see wat can o do about the rest of the year for school so that he may past on to the next grade
    • Yen
      Im sorry to hear that. My 13 yr old took a 2 1/2 inches pocket knife to school and he was taken to Juvie. He got a 10 day suspension and the court will decide if he can stay in thay school or not. The principal said 90% of theMore cases go to an "alternative" school without transportation and 20 minute away from my home. IDK what to do
  • ErinLariviere
    My son is 11. He has had many problems his entire school experience. Yesterday was the last straw. He ran away from teachers and was cursing at them. Acting uncontrollable. He came home and acted like it was no big deal. He has an IEP. However I am not sureMore if school is the right place for him. I will be seeking medical hep for him but I'm not sure what to do with the schooling aspect. I can't hold a job doing this every school year. Any advice? please.
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      I can hear how much you want to help your son by finding the

      right educational placement for him. I would first start with having a meeting

      with his teacher and other school personnel to find out what options may be

      available. Checking in with his doctor or primary care provider is a great idea

      as well. There are a couple resources that may be able to also give you

      information on programs and other services. The 211 Helpline is a nationwide

      referral service that can give you information on alternative educational

      placements, educational advocates, and other community supports. You can reach

      the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by going to http://www.211.org/. If you are considering a therapeutic

      educational placement, the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and

      Programs (http://www.natsap.org/ ) can

      give you information on therapeutic programs in your area and nationwide. You

      can call them at 928-443-9505. I hope this information is useful. Be sure to

      check back if you have any further questions. Take care.

  • Carika
    My son (15) got into trouble at school and have a diciplinary hearing on Thursday. He took a drink from a friend that contain some synthetical drug. He said that he did nit know what it was and was told that it was cold drink. He got very sickMore after this and I received a call to collect him from school. He is not a problem child and did not get into any trouble before this. How do I handle this at his hearing? I seriously need help. Dont know what to do. Please help.
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      I am so sorry to hear your son has to have a disciplinary

      hearing at school. Many parents have a lot of worry and concern regarding these

      meetings, so, you’re not alone. You may find it helpful to touch base with an

      educational advocate or legal counsel who is familiar with the specific 

      procedures and laws in your area. You local educational district would be able

      to give you information on these services. Good luck to you and your son moving

      forward. Take care.

  • lanette walton
    My two daughters were in a serious school fight were 5 students were involved. I had repeatedly went to the school about my younger daughter being bullied until finally this fight occurred where both were involved. I went to the tribunal hearing and they expelled my ninth grader andMore sent my 11 grader to alternative school , who has never been in trouble for anything. I feel that was very happy unfair. What steps can I take to get them back into another school. Keep inMind they go to school in SC where there is a zero tolerance for fighting no matter if it is the other students fault.
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      lanette walton

      What a tough situation. I am sorry to hear you and your

      daughters are facing these issues. It may be beneficial to speak with legal

      counsel about your situation, specifically someone who specializes in school

      law. The 211 Helpline would be able to give you information on legal services

      in your area. You can reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling

      1-800-273-6222 or by visiting them online at http://www.211.org/.

      Good luck to you and your daughters moving forward. Be sure to check in and let

      us know how things are going. Take care.

  • Purplepanda2
    My son has been suspended for 6 days. For an accidently bumping into a girl. I got no call. My son brought home the paper after school today. He has iep. He is on probation for other things. Never has he touch or hit a girl on purpose. What canMore i do?
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


      What a tough situation. Many parents are unsure of how to

      respond when their child is suspended from school. It may be helpful to talk

      with the school principal about the situation to see if you can find out

      anymore information. Your son’s Special Education teacher or case manager may

      also be able to shed some light on what happened and what the next steps will

      be. I appreciate you writing in and wish you and your son the best of luck

      moving forward. Take care.

  • DeniseR_ParentalSupport


    I am so sorry to hear you are facing these

    challenges at school. I’m sure not knowing what might happen now that you’ve

    been expelled must be pretty scary. Since we are a website aimed at helping

    parents develop more effective ways of parenting their children, we are very

    limited in the help we are able to offer you. There is a website available for

    teens and young adults, http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/

    that offers many different ways of getting support for problems you may be

    having. You can talk to their specially trained staff by text or e-mail, online

    chat, or ask questions through their online forum. They also have some tips

    that offer advice, like this one: http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/Pages/tip-life-out-of-control.aspx. I hope you will reach out to them for help

    and support with this distressing situation. We appreciate you reaching out to

    Empowering Parents. Take care and good luck.

  • disgruntled parent
    My child was suspended for 8 days.  On the 7th day I got a call saying there would be a expulsion hearing the next day (TODAY).  I have no previous knowledge about expulsions and I didn't attend the meeting today.  I also couldn't reach anyone by phone today.  I wasMore so blindsided by this.  I just need advice on what to do.
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      disgruntled parent

      I am so sorry to hear about your son and the trouble he is

      having at school. You don’t mention in your comment whether your son currently

      has an IEP. If he does, it would be beneficial to touch base with his Special

      Education teacher or case manager about this issue. It may be advantageous as

      well to talk with the director of Special Education for your district. Your

      state department of education may also be able to offer you some guidance

      around this issue, even if your son isn’t receiving Special Services at this

      time. The rules and regulations around suspension and expulsion can vary

      greatly from one school district to another. Speaking with someone who is

      familiar with the specific protocols for your school district would be most

      useful as they would be able to give you advice for your particular situation.

      We wish you and your son the best of luck moving forward. Take care.

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