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.
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.
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Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story. I'm so sorry your son has been suspended for his choice and I can understand your concern. It may be helpful to speak with someone familiar with the educational rules and regulations in your school district, such as an educational advocate or legal professional. If you are in the US or Canada, the 211 National Helpline may be able to give you information on these services.
The 211 National Helpline is a referral service available 24 hours a day, nationwide. They can give you information on the types of support services available in your area such as counselors, therapists, support groups/kinship services as well as various other resources. You can reach the Helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto 211.org (211.ca in Canada)
We appreciate you being part of the Empowering Parents community. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going. Take care.
Will try to be short and especific.
My son a 10th grader just got suspended for using a vaping devise inside the school bathroom and got cut by security, the suspension by the principal is indefinitely until next week we might have a meeting with the principal next week.
Basically bought with our debit card the device in a gas station, behind our back.
We already removed his privileges and giving shores to do at home, please let me know how handle the academic and athletic aspect since he is on the varsity school baseballscamp team as well and a good player. How do we address the meeting with the principal at meeting?
What to respond us or my son at meeting?
Should we need legal representation and how to find it?
Please email me for more advise and contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you in advance 🙏
Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story. We are not able to give specific recommendations in this situation because each school district handles these situations differently. I encourage you to speak with a legal professional regarding your situation, preferably one who specializes in school law.
We appreciate you being part of our Empowering Parents community and wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.
My 6yr old daughter has been suspended from School for the second time in 2 weeks. The first time she was suspended for 2 days for hitting teachers and throwing objects at people and swearing. Today she was suspended for the second time and the School gave no timescale as to when she should return (if she should return at all) She has been on a part time timetable at School for almost 6 months now. Mother and I both attend fortnightly meetings with the School. It should be noted that my Daughter lives with her Mother and she stays with me at the weekends. The behaviour my Daughter displays at School is the same behaviour her Mother receives on a daily basis. It should also be noted that when she is with me at the weekends, this behaviour shown at School and at home is non-existent with me. I am seriously concerned and unsure what I should do in this situation because I honestly do not think Mother is addressing the problems as she should and allows our Daughter to get away with the bad behaviour. I don't feel like I personally need the support to cope with my Daughter but I am 100% sure Mother needs support as I cannot control my Daughter while she lives with her Mother. I believe it's the Mothers responsibility to address any and all situations within her own household and deal with each issue accordingly and show our Daughter that she is the adult and she is the one that is in charge therefor our Daughter should listen to her and not just me and phone me to try deal with the situation over the phone.
What support is available to the Mother because the last thing I want to do is start custody proceedings in case this makes matters worse for our Daughter. I am at my wits end and it's started to cause serious issues between Myself and her Mother.
Any sort of feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for reaching out with what sounds like a frustrating situation. We hear from many parents in similar situations, so you are not alone. It's usually most productive for each parent to focus on the culture of accountability the establish in their own home, as that's where you will have the most control. We have several articles that focus on two household families you may find helpful: https://www.empoweringparents.com/article-categories/non-traditional-families/divorced-parents/.
We appreciate you reaching out and wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.
Thank you for reaching out to us for support. I can hear how frustrating and upsetting your son's behaviors are, and I want to reassure you that you are not alone. Because getting started can feel overwhelming to many parents, I often recommend making a prioritized list of all the behaviors you are dealing with, and then focusing on just 1-2 of the most disruptive behaviors at a time. This allows you to be consistent with limit setting and accountability, without becoming overwhelmed. For more helpful tools, please check out this article: How to Create a Culture of Accountability in Your Home (https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-create-a-culture-of-accountability-in-your-home/).
We appreciate you being part of the Empowering Parents community. Be sure to check back and let us know how things are going.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.