A Parent’s Mini-Guide to School Discipline

A child who is facing disciplinary actions still has rights in the school environment. It is important that you, as a parent, understand those rights.  In the time of COVID-19, whether virtual or in person learning, information surrounding the rules of discipline can be powerful in a parent’s hand. If your child attends a public school in New York City[NYC], for example [not a charter school], here is a guide to the standard school discipline protocols. If your child attends a public school in any part of the United States, expect similar guidelines.There will be written rules and regulations that guide disciplinary practices.  

When removed from class or suspended from school, your child must still be given academic instruction. In NYC, only 3 types of removals from class or school are allowed.

  1. TEACHER CLASSROOM REMOVALS                                                                                   A student who is ‘very disruptive’ or interfering a lot in the classroom may be removed from class by the teacher. The student may be removed for 1 to 4 school days. The teacher is required to tell the principal of the removal that same day. The principal must make every effort to call or tell the parent of the removal also that same day, but no later than the next day. This gives you, the parent, a chance to meet and discuss the removal.
  2. PRINCIPAL’S SUSPENSIONS                                                                                                 The principal may suspend a student from school for dangerous or disruptive behavior for 1 to 5 school days. He or she must give the parent written notice of the suspension before the student is removed from class. The principal must also hold a conference with you before your child is suspended. However, a student may be suspended before that conference, if considered a continuing danger to other students, staff, property or an ongoing threat of disruption to the learning process.

NOTE> Due to COVID-19, principal’s suspension conferences may be held remotely unless you ask yours to be held in person. If you do prefer an in-person meeting, the principal must then consult with the borough director of suspension to consider your request.

3. SUPERINTENDENT’S SUSPENSIONS                                                                                            For more serious behavior, the principal may ask the superintendent to                        suspend your child for 6 to 29 school days. In limited situations, the principal              may ask to suspend the student for more than 20 school days. Written notice                must be given to the parent. A hearing will be held within 5 to 10 days of the                suspension at a hearing office.

All other removals from class or school, or threats of removals, are not allowed. The school should not:

  • call you repeatedly to pick your child up early from school
  • tell you to be in school so your child can go to school
  • tell you to find a new school for your child
  • call or threaten to call Child Protective Services on you
  • call the police to handle your child’s behavior unless there is a real emergency
  • send your child to the emergency room unless your child is in immediate danger to themselves or others and only after the school takes the proper steps
  • tell you your child must transfer to another school, unless he or she does not have an IEP[Individualized Education Program] and the school follows certain procedures.

Instead, the school should work with you to address the problems your child is having. Before removing or suspending your child, the school must follow the procedures in the Discipline Code and Chancellor’s Regulations:

The NYC Department of Education Discipline Code
This document lists all the reasons and ways that your child may be disciplined by
their school. You can find the Discipline Codes for Grades K-5 and 6-12 at: https://
www.schools.nyc.gov/school-life/rules-for-students/discipline-code

The NYC Department of Education Chancellor’s Regulations
Section A-443 of the Chancellor’s Regulations describes your child’s rights related to school discipline. It also describes special education protections related to discipline.
Section A-411 of the Chancellor’s Regulations describes the NYC Department
of Education’s policy and procedures that schools must follow when a student is in
a behavioral crisis. It discusses intervention, de-escalation, and 911 calls.
Section A-450 of the Chancellor’s Regulations describes the NYC Department of
Education’s policy and procedures that schools must follow when a student is told
they must transfer to another school.

two girls doing school worksDuring a classroom removal or suspension, your child must be given alternate education that meets their individual needs. He or she cannot be punished academically for a removal or suspension and must continue to earn academic credits.

Alternative instruction includes:

  • direct instruction
  • class work
  • homework
  • tests, including citywide and state tests such as Regents exams.

Giving you child worksheets only is not enough. If your child has a disability, they must get education appropriate for their special education needs while suspended, such as services on their IEP or 504 plan, related services or a paraprofessional.

Alternative instruction can take place at your child’s school, a different school or at an Alternative Learning Center[ALC]. If your child does not attend the school assigned for alternative instruction, your child will be marked absent. If you have travel or other concerns, contact the Borough Suspension Director or Principal of the ALC.

spoiled bratFor classroom removals, ask your child’s teacher where your child is getting alternative education and who is giving it to him or her during the removal. If you have any other concerns, talk to the principal. For suspensions, information about the location and hours of instruction should be on your child’s suspension notice.

If your child gets a principal’s suspension, grades K-8 students must get full-time instruction in a room in their school. High school students must get at least 2 hours a day of instruction in a room in their school.

If your child gets a superintendent’s suspension, grades K-5 students must get full-time instruction. Usually, they go to a ‘buddy school’ for alternative instruction.Grades 6-8 must get full-time instruction at an ALC. High school students must get at least 2 hours a day of instruction before the superintendent’s suspension hearing. If still suspended after the hearing, they get full-time instruction at an ALC.

If your child is sent to an ALC, the home school should send all classwork and assignments there. Both work together to make sure your child makes academic progress and smooth transitions from school to school. Both make sure your child gets needed supports.

Last, if the ALC is too far from home or your child feels unsafe, call the Principal at the ALC and the Director of the Borough Suspension Hearing Office. You can ask them to move your child to a different ALC, calling that center to see if they can admit your child. You can also ask that your child is given ample travel time to arrive at the ALC, or that they may return your child to his or her home school. If your child gets busing on the IEP, they must also get busing to the ALC. The home school must ensure that it is in place during the suspension. If not available, he or she returns to the home school until busing is in place.

Ultimately, the students most likely to face discipline at school are black and brown students, in urban or rural settings. The forms of discipline they receive are more harsh in comparison to students in other groups accused of the same or similar infractions. Therefore, it is important that parents know your child’s rights as student, and your rights as parent.women s white dress shirt

Whether in New York City public schools, private or charter school settings, parents must understand the school-specific discipline codes. Always ask questions of the school staff, seeking justification for the consequences imposed on your child. We all want children on their best behaviors, but we want compassion, equity and alternatives to removal. Ask the school to outline all interventions and positive behavioral support strategies utilized- before removal or suspension was considered.

When or if you are called to appear at your child’s school because of a behavior concern, put on your best face-firm but still approachable. Even when you feel anger and frustration, the moment you enter the building or turn on the video for a Zoom conference, contain it. The goal is to get answers, ask questions, listen and spark some form of compromise. The last thing you want is your child’s removal from his classroom or school.

Demonstrating your concern for your child, you want to be given a fully comprehensible and detailed explanation of the situation. If you can provide some insight into your child’s behaviors, do so. Children use behaviors as a means of communication. What is your child communicating? You will want to know what your child needs, feels and what he or she may be experiencing[at home, at school] This could be an attempt to process internally and instead is externalizing. This is particularly true if your child has no history of disruptive behaviors in school. If this is indeed a first time situation, the time is perfect for compromises. Reassure the teacher and/or principal that you will resolve issues at home, and ask that they monitor his or her future behaviors, in partnership with you.

As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. Defend your child and his or her rights at all times, but…..however you discipline your child, and communicate your disappointment, hold it until you are in private. The situation is already embarrassing enough for you both. Wait until you get home. Always, always frame your parent-child conversations in love. Highlight positive traits and qualities.  Education holds the key to your child’s future! What is done today may follow your child into adulthood. The problem is the behavior, not the child. Never let your child forget it! 

 

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