I received a call today from a dad whose daughter had been cited at her prom for Minor in Consumption of alcohol. Because it was a school-related event, she was facing disciplinary sanctions at school.
As we got further into the conversation, she already had received disciplinary sanctions: She was going to be sent to the Alternative Learning Center for the remainder of the school year, and it was likely that she was going to miss graduation. The dad was still trying to figure out how quickly everything happened. He thought they were attending a meeting with the school, and one administrator had assured them that this was “no big deal” and that his daughter “was a good kid who had never been in trouble before.”
He relayed the details of what we’ve seen again and again and again: The informal meeting was far more formal that he anticipated, the school appeared to have already decided the resolution of the case before the meeting even started, and no matter what the parents said in their daughter’s defense, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that she was going to be removed to the Alternative school.
Welcome to the world of removal and expulsion hearings.
Few parents ever think of hiring a lawyer at this early stage in the process, and almost all are under the mistaken impression that “good kids” wouldn’t be removed to the Alternative Learning Center with all those bad kids. Furthermore, parents don’t realize that the school has indeed already decided what to do before the removal hearing; it isn’t a search for truth as much as it is an expedited process to efficiently remove the student to ALC.
We’ve had frustrating experiences where hearings officers wouldn’t allow us to bring in witnesses which affirmatively proved our clients’ innocence, acknowledge lab results authoritatively proving the a substance was indeed candy and not cocaine, and even tried to prevent us from speaking during the hearing. Schools are fiefdoms where enforcing due process rights only comes from playing a contact sport.
If your teenage son or daughter gets in trouble at school and you get a call asking to you come to a removal hearing or an expulsion hearing the next day, chances are that the school has already decided to remove or expel him.
Please: call a lawyer. Even if you don’t call us, call any lawyer that has experience in school law. You have no idea how serious the consequences are, how complicated the process is, and how forceful you must be in order to get a fair hearing.