Suspension and Expulsion

Suspensions

A suspension means a student is temporarily prohibited from going to regular classes and/or school. A student does not have to be sent home to be considered "suspended" under Maine law.

In Maine, a student can be suspended for any of these activities at a school function or on school grounds:

  • Being deliberately disobedient or disorderly,
  • Being violent,
  • Having a gun or dangerous weapon,
  • Hurting or threatening to hurt someone with a dangerous weapon,
  • Having drugs (possessing, selling, or giving them away), or
  • Otherwise violating a school’s code of conduct rules.

Always review your school's student code of conduct and suspension policies.

Student Rights

Before a student is suspended, they have a right:

  • to know what they are being accused of,
  • to know what evidence the school has, and
  • a right to be heard.

Suspension Process

If suspension is for 10 school days or less, there will generally not be a formal process. A suspension can happen immediately and the school decides how long the suspension will be.

Example: The principal tells you that another student saw you with a beer. You deny that to the principal. The principal believes the other student and suspends you for 3 days, starting that day.

Time Limits

In Maine, a school administrator can only suspend a student for a maximum of 10 school days before they are required to have a more formal hearing.

  • If you have been suspended for more than 10 school days in one school year - because of many shorter suspensions, call KIDS LEGAL or another lawyer.

If a suspension is for longer than 10 school days, the student has a right to a formal hearing in front of the school board. This hearing has to happen within the first 10 school days of the suspension. Only the school board can suspend a student for more than 10 school days.

If a principal wants to suspend a student for more than 10 school days, the student can go back to school on the 11th day, unless:

  1. a school board hearing happens before the 11th school day, or
  2. there is an agreement between the student, their parents, and the school administration that the student will stay out of school until the school board hearing happens.

A student DOES NOT have to agree to stay out of school longer than the 10 school days of suspension.

What is a "risk assessment?"

Maine law does not talk about "risk assessments." Most schools say a "risk assessment" is an evaluation by a mental-health professional to see if a student is a danger to themself or others. Parents should not have to pay for the "risk assessment."

Sometimes a school will not let a suspended student return until a "risk assessment" happens. In that case, the "risk assessment" must happen within the first 10 school days of the suspension. If it does not, the student can go back to school on the 11th school day unless the school board has met and suspended them for more than 10 school days. If the school won't let that happen, you should call KIDS LEGAL or another lawyer.

Expulsions

In Maine, an expulsion means that a school board has decided that a student cannot go to school, a school function, or be on school property for more than 10 school days. If a student is expelled from one public school in Maine, they are expelled from every public school in Maine.

Students can be expelled for the following reasons if it is necessary for the "peace and usefulness of the school":

  • Being deliberately disobedient or disorderly,
  • Being violent,
  • Having a gun or dangerous weapon on school grounds,
  • Hurting or threatening to hurt someone with a dangerous weapon,
  • Having drugs (possessing, selling, or giving away), or
  • Otherwise violating a school’s code of conduct rules.

These behaviors must have happened at school, on school grounds, or at a school event (like a sports game or dance). Always review your school's student code of conduct and expulsion policies.

Student Rights

During an expulsion, a student does not have a right to any educational services from the school unless they are receiving special education services. A school may decide to give educational services during an expulsion, but it is up to the school board or administration.

Students are entitled to:

  • to know what they are being accused of,
  • to know what evidence the school has, and
  • a right to be heard.

Time Limits

Expulsions can last:

  • anywhere from 11 school days up to the number of school days in a school year, or
  • for an indefinite period of time with a re-entry plan for the student to follow.

A student cannot be kept from school for more than 10 school days without a formal due process hearing before the school board. If the school board is not scheduled to meet before the student has been out of school for 10 school days, it must hold an emergency meeting for the expulsion hearing. If it does not, the student can legally go back to school on the 11th school day.

Expulsion Process

If a student is expelled, they have a constitutional right to "due process." Generally, this means a right to be notified of the recommendation to expel, given the reasons why, and given an opportunity to be heard by the people making the decision on whether or not to expel.

Under Maine law, due process requires that:

  • Both the student and parents get a written notice that has:
    • the date, time, and place of the due process hearing,
    • a description of the behavior,
    • your right to review your school records before the hearing,
    • a description of the hearing procedure, and
    • an explanation of what an expulsion means.

The superintendent must also invite the students and parents to a meeting to talk about how the hearing will work. This meeting is about the hearing and not about the behavior or the incident. This meeting is not required but it may be a good way to know what to expect.

If the school board is not scheduled to meet before you have been out of school for 10 school days, it must hold an emergency meeting for your expulsion hearing. If it does not, you can legally go back to school on the 11th school day.

If you lose an expulsion hearing, you can appeal to Superior Court. These cases are very difficult to win. You should talk to a lawyer first. You have 30 days to appeal.

Expulsion Hearings

Expulsion hearings are usually at night and may be part of a larger school board meeting. Expulsion hearings are held in "executive session" in front of the school board and are closed to the public. The school board acts like a judge and will decide whether to expel a student by a majority vote.

The school does not have to provide you with a lawyer. At the expulsion hearing, the school board may have their lawyer there even if you do not have one. You may want to talk to a lawyer of your own before the expulsion hearing.

At the hearing, the school will go first. It will have people talk about the reasons why they are recommending that the student be expelled. They will introduce evidence, including your discipline record. You can object to what people are saying when they testify or the documents that the school is using. Typically, people object if they think that what the witness is talking about, or the documents, are not relevant to why the school is recommending expulsion.

At the expulsion hearing, a student has the right to:

  • cross-examine school witnesses (ask them questions),
  • bring your own witnesses to speak on your behalf, and
  • have a lawyer or other person represent you.

A student has a right to put on a defense after the school finishes presenting its reasons for recommending expulsion. A student can bring their own witnesses to testify about why the student shouldn’t be expelled or how the school’s witnesses got facts wrong.

All witnesses will have to swear to tell the truth before they are allowed to testify.

How to prepare for an expulsion hearing

  • Think about what you will say.
    • Don't blame others for your actions.
    • Be willing to apologize.
    • Explain why you will not behave that way again.
  • If the expulsion is because of criminal activity, be sure to talk to a juvenile defense attorney before you testify at the hearing. What you say at the expulsion hearing can be used against you in court.
  • If you are getting help like counseling or AA, tell the board.
  • Be prepared to say why being in school is important to you.
  • Give the board members a reason to keep you in school.
  • Be prepared to answer questions from school board members.
  • Bring witnesses or written statements from your counselor, employer, probation officer, teacher, a community member, etc. that will speak to your good character.
  • Bring school records that show you are invested in the school (your attendance, grades, participation in sports, etc.).
  • Be polite and respectful. Don't swear, yell, or be argumentative.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear clean clothes without holes, no hats, no short skirts. If you wear a T-shirt, make sure it doesn't have swear words or references to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.

Readmission after expulsion

If a student is expelled for specific number of school days, and they do not have a re-entry plan, they may simply return to school when the expulsion is over.

If a student has a re-entry plan, they will have to complete the required steps in the plan before they will be allowed to re-enter school.

Once the student finishes the requirements of the re-entry plan, they need to ask to go before the school board. The student will need to show that the behavior that caused the expulsion will not be repeated. The re-entry meeting before the school board can be requested when the student thinks they are ready, even if the principal or superintendent do not agree.

The school board will decide whether to readmit the student. If the principal or superintendent will not contact the school board to put the student’s readmission on the agenda for the school board meeting, contact the chair of the school board. Board members are usually named on the school district's website. You can also call the administrative office of your school to find out who is on the school board.

Re-Entry Plans

A re-entry plan is to help a student prove that the behavior that caused them to get expelled will not happen again. Someone from the school needs to review the student’s progress on the plan one month after the expulsion, 3 months after that, and 3 months after that.

If a student has a re-entry plan, it must be made with the student, the student’s parents, and school staff. If a student is invited to a meeting to make a reentry plan, and they do not go, the school will write one for the student without their input.

Some things that may be included in a re-entry plan are: counseling, substance abuse treatment, community service, and/or you engaging in a learning program of some kind.

The student will get a written copy of the plan.

Unless the student has an individualized education plan (IEP), the school does not have to provide or pay for any of the services that are required in the re-entry plan.

 

 

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