A school suspension means your child is temporarily removed from school programming. It can be an out-of- school suspension (not allowed at the school building) or an in-school suspension (sent to a room at school). An expulsion in Maine means that your child is not allowed to go to school or get any services, like tutoring, during the expulsion.
The one exception is if your child receives special education; then he or she must get services. An expulsion can last a very long time. Students have rights to “due process” when facing a suspension or expulsion. Students who go to public schools in Maine can be suspended or expelled only if they:
- Bring a firearm or dangerous weapon to school ,
- Purposefully hurt or threaten to hurt someone with a dangerous weapon,
- Bring drugs to school,
- Are violent at school, or
- Are deliberately disobedient or disorderly.
These behaviors must have happened at school, on school grounds or at a school event (like a sports game or dance). The student’s removal must be necessary for the “peace and usefulness” of the school.
If the student is going to be suspended for more than 10 school days, the school must hold a hearing before the 10 days are up. If it does not, the student has a right to go back to school on the 11th day. This means a student cannot be told that he or she cannot come back to school until a “risk assessment” is done. The hearing is in front of the school board. It is closed to the public. If the school board does not have a scheduled meeting during the 10 school days, then it must schedule an emergency meeting to hold the hearing.
Maine law for expulsions will change on August 30th, giving students more rights. Now, parents and students must get a written notice of the hearing that says:
- The date, time and location of the hearing,
- The description of the student’s behavior,
- The right to review school records before the hearing,
- The description of the hearing procedures, and
- An explanation of what an expulsion means.
The superintendent must also invite the parents and student facing an expulsion to a meeting to talk about how the hearing will work. This meeting is not supposed to talk about your child’s behavior. It is to explain the hearing procedure to you. At the expulsion hearing, you have the right to:
- Cross-examine school witnesses,
- Bring witnesses for your child, and
- Have an attorney represent you (the school does not have to give you an attorney; you must find an attorney on your own).
All witnesses in the hearing must be sworn in by the chair of the school board. Both the student and parents must get a written notice, sent by certified mail, of the school board’s decision. If you disagree with the decision, you can appeal to the Maine Superior Court. You only have 30 days to appeal.
The length of an expulsion can be either:
- for a set number of days, up to one school year, or
- an open-ended time with a reentry plan the student must follow.
The reentry plan must be made with you and your child. If you are invited to a meeting and you do not go, the school will write the reentry plan without your input. You will get a written copy of the plan. The plan must be designed to help your child prove that the behavior that led to the expulsion will not happen again. A school staff person will review your child’s progress on the reentry plan at one month, 3 months and 6 months. The school is not required to pay for any services in the reentry plan, unless your child has an IEP. Once the reentry plan is finished, your child will go back before the school board to show that the behavior is not likely to happen again. You can ask for the school board meeting on reentry to be scheduled when you think your child is ready.
If the public school your child goes to does not follow these rules, you can contact KIDS LEGAL.