The School’s Authority
The procedure for suspension is set down in Connecticut General Statute § 10-233c. The law applies to all public schools in the state. It includes charter schools, magnet schools and tech schools.
To suspend, the principal owes the parents and their child very little in the way of due process. The administration must take two steps. First, the principal must tell the boy (it is almost always a boy) what he did to violate the district’s code of conduct. Second, the principal must give the child a chance to tell his side of the story. That does not mean they have to listen to it.
Next, under the law the administration can suspend a student for one of three reasons. One, his behavior on school grounds violated one of the board of education’s publicized policies. Two, the behavior seriously disrupted the educational process. Three, it endangered people or property.
In these circumstances officials have more authority over the child than his parents do. The principal must notify the parents within twenty-four hours of the suspension. But before then parents have no right to take part in the principal’s investigation. And they cannot stop the police from taking part in it.
The principal has more authority than most parents realize. First, the administration can suspend a student for conduct off school grounds. To do so, the student must have violated a publicized policy and seriously disrupted the educational process back at school.
Second, the principal may suspend the same student many times. A principal can suspend a student for no more than ten days in a row. But in the same school year they can suspend the same student ten different times. And they can do it for up to fifty days in total.
Challenging a suspension in court is very difficult. Judges will not overturn the principal’s decision unless it “shocks the conscience.” This happens very rarely.
As noted above, the police have their own investigation to complete. Sometimes it ends in an arrest. In that event the family may need more than a student discipline attorney. If the police charge a student with a felony or class A misdemeanor, they must notify the superintendent of a child’s home district. They police may testify later if the board of education holds an expulsion hearing.
The Department of Children and Families
Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families may take part, too. School personnel must report to it every instance of suspected child abuse and neglect. If the Department investigates and finds that a student poses an imminent risk of personal injury to any of the district’s students, it must so notify the superintendent.
If the student is a minor, they may face charges in Juvenile Court. Their case will be protected by confidentiality. But Juvenile Court probation officers may talk to the superintendent about the conditions they set for the student’s return to school.