As a parent, you put great hope in the prospects your high school children have once they graduate. Whether they begin a career or pursue a four-year degree in the hopes of becoming a doctor, engineer, lawyer, or teacher, each path toward success begins by satisfying academic and service requirements to obtain a high school diploma. The formative years of secondary school are packed with instruction in the classroom and experience-based learning, but the shift from adolescence into adulthood can produce adversity students must overcome. Unfortunately, infractions that once warranted a simple phone call home from the guidance counselor or principal are increasingly grounds for suspension and expulsion in schools regulated under zero-tolerance disciplinary policies.
Occasionally, school disciplinary officials blame students for misconduct they did not commit. If your child cannot defend themselves on the spot, they risk being categorized alongside perennial troublemakers. Mistakes on behalf of the school can subject your student child to unjust consequences affecting them well into their adult years.
You don't want an administrative misunderstanding to jeopardize your child's future, but it happens in Idaho school districts. Considering the steep implications, it is imperative that you realize how schools handle violations of their rules and how it can negatively affect your child unless you act quickly.
Avoiding Alternative Educational Placements in Idaho
When your child is accused of misbehavior or misconduct at their Idaho high school, reprimands can be as minimal as extra class assignments or as serious as expulsion. Sanctions should be levied in proportion to the severity of the alleged misconduct, but that doesn't always happen. School boards have an obligation to protect the institution's reputation, and your child can get caught in the middle.
One option Idaho school districts have for students with recurring infractions is to send them to an Interim Alternative Education Placement (IAEP). While this is a seemingly benign solution to help misbehaved students improve their standing in high school, the problem is that Idaho IAEPs can brand your child a delinquent, causing them undue inequitable treatment.
IAEPs can indeed facilitate remediation for some students, but many can respond poorly to the unconventional environment, causing unnecessary academic and emotional damage to your child. Moreover, individual Idaho IAEPs may have their own internal troubles, including an outdated curriculum, substandard instruction, and a lack of quality support services.
If your child faces an Idaho high school disciplinary proceeding, the risk of them being relegated to an IAEP is real. To help you navigate the Idaho high school grievance process and keep your child out of a disciplinary change in placement, call student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm. They have built their premier experience on successfully defending high school students in Idaho and across the country.
Student Codes of Conduct for School Discipline in Idaho
Idaho high schools don't discipline arbitrarily. Each school must create a code of conduct to oversee student behavior at the behest of the Idaho State Department of Education (SDE), following the state legislature's regulations.
Your child's school's code of conduct—also known as a student handbook or honor code—is your foundation of defense against unjust school discipline. Your student defense advisor will review the particular school or district's rules to ensure they adhere to their own parameters and don't impose excessive sanctions. The code of conduct will specify prohibited conduct for students and the corresponding consequences. Although each school and district may differ in its code of conduct, some common prohibited behaviors are:
- Computer misuse
- Drug, alcohol, and tobacco use
- Student or teacher assault
- Title IX offenses
- Weapons at school
In addition to types of misconduct, the code of conduct will list the sanctions for students who commit these behaviors. Typically, consequences include:
- Loss of privileges: Students lose school privileges or are removed from participation in extracurricular activities.
- Behavioral counseling: The establishment of a line of communication between the student, their parents or guardians, and a school administration to discuss a remediation course of action.
- Detention: Students must remain after school, show up before school, or on a Saturday to complete their schoolwork.
- Exclusion: Some Idaho school districts allow instructors to exclude a student from their classroom for misbehavior, and the student is reassigned to another teacher
- Community service: Students must complete a set number of service work hours either in the school or community.
- In-school suspension (ISS): Students are removed from their regular classrooms and placed in an ISS classroom to complete assignments for up to five days.
- Out-of-school suspension (OSS): Students are barred from attending school for up to ten consecutive days.
- Removal to an IAEP: Students are temporarily assigned to an alternative education setting lasting no longer than 45 days.
- Expulsion: Students are banned from attending their regular school for a certain period after a series of hearings culminating with the superintendent's final decision. Depending on the student's age and the school district, expelled students are required to attend an IAEP.
Emergency Removals in Idaho Schools
Idaho schools are given the authority to conduct emergency removals of students in some instances. According to Idaho Code § 16-1608, an emergency expulsion may be carried out on a student if they are a physical or mental danger to themselves or others.
Removals of this nature can be issued without an official order. Students removed by a peace officer may be taken into a shelter managed by Child Protective Services (CPS) and held for a maximum of 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays. The local court will then proceed with an adjudicatory hearing.
Reasons Your Student May Be Sent To an IAEP
Students aren't removed from the traditional learning environment just for extreme behavior. Any at-risk youth in 7th grade up to 12th grade may be removed from the public school and placed in an IAEP. According to the SDE, at-risk students are classified into one of two categories.
- Absenteeism greater than ten percent during the preceding semester
- Below proficient, based on local criteria, standardized tests, or both
- Failed one or more academic subjects in the past year
- Has attended three or more schools within the previous two years, not including dual enrollment
- Repetition of at least one grade
- Overall grade point average is less than 1.5 on a 4.0 scale prior to enrolling in an alternative secondary program
- Students two or more credits per year behind the rate required to graduate or for grade promotion
- Court order or agency referral
- Demonstrates behavior that is detrimental to their academic progress
- Documented or pattern of substance abuse
- Emancipated youth
- Pregnant or parent
- Previous dropout
- "Serious" personal, emotional, or medical issue(s)
Hearing Process for Suspensions and Expulsions in Idaho
Idaho schools follow state codes in their application of discipline. Pursuant to Idaho Code § 33-205, the board of trustees of a school may deny enrollment or attendance via expulsion for no less than one school year for:
- Continuous disruptions
- Habitual truancy
- Possession of a dangerous or deadly weapon
- Possession, sale, or distribution of controlled substances
- Expulsion from another school district in Idaho or any other state
Moreover, the superintendent of any district or the principal of any school may temporarily suspend any student for disciplinary reasons, including harassment, intimidation, and bullying. A temporary suspension by the principal may not exceed five school days, and the school superintendent may extend the temporary suspension an additional ten school days.
Considering hearings are typically informal in nature, school authorities and county administrators are given the deference to use their judgment on the procedures. Nevertheless, no student may be denied enrollment or expelled without the board of trustees having first given written notice to their parent or guardian. The notice will state the follow:
- Grounds for the proposed separation from studies
- The time and place where the parent or guardian may appear to contest the action of the board
- The student's right to retain legal counsel
- Right for the student to produce witnesses, evidence, and cross-examine any adult witnesses testifying against them
The Manifestation Determination Review in Idaho High Schools
When a school suspends a student for more than ten consecutive school days or ten total days in the same school year for discipline related to a pattern of misbehavior, the school administration must conduct a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR). The purpose of the MDR is to determine whether a student's disability caused the behavior that led to the suspension or if the behavior resulted from the school's failure to implement the student's Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or Section 504 Plan.
Typically, an MDR is conducted after the superintendent's determination and must happen within ten school days of the suspension, expulsion, or other means of removal or exclusionary discipline. The MDR team, consisting of school representatives with knowledge of the student, members of the district's school board, and the student's parents or guardians, will consider all relevant information to understand the possible connection between the sanctioned misconduct and a disability.
If your student child has regular contact with behavioral counselors or other healthcare providers, it will be a good idea if they are present in the meeting. Some disabilities warranting an IEP or Section 504 Plan include:
- Emotional disabilities
- Hearing impairment
- Intellectual disabilities
- Learning disabilities
- Orthopedic disabilities
- Speech or language impairment
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Visual impairment
You have the right to be represented by a professional—legal or otherwise— at any MDR meeting. Many Idaho schools require notice of an intent to be represented by outside legal help. Most insist on making the school and the MDR team aware of your decision within three school days but consult with your school district's bylaws first.
If the MDR team decides that the incident or pattern of misbehavior was related to the disability or the student's IEP not being implemented properly, the following will occur:
- The school will recall the suspension, expulsion, or placement in an IAEP
- A functional behavioral assessment (FBA) will be conducted by either the MDR team or the IEP team
- An assessment protocol may alter your child's behavioral intervention plan (BIP) or make a BIP for your child if they do not have one
The separation from studies will continue if the MDR team doesn't discover a disability. If the suspension is longer than ten school days, a superintendent may order a student to an IAEP for up to 45 days.
Challenging the MDR Process
The student and their parent or guardian can file a petition for a due process hearing to the SDE if they refuse the MDR team's findings. An expedited due process hearing is a request to have an independent hearing officer review a disciplinary decision within 20 school days, with a decision rendered within ten days of the hearing.
Parents may be accompanied and advised by a professional student defense advisor during a due process hearing. Students will remain in an IAEP pending the outcome of the case.
Idaho Students' Rights and IAEP Program Requirements
Students placed in an IAEP have rights. According to the SDE, students placed in a temporary program must:
- Continue to receive educational services to participate in the general education curriculum aligned with SBE's standards of mathematics, writing, social studies, reading, and science.
- The work or instruction must not be considered "busy work" or assignments below the student's academic progress or grade level.
- Academic counseling required before entrance into the program must continue throughout the IAEP.
- A student will receive, if necessary, a functional behavioral assessment or behavioral intervention services designed to address recurrent violations.
- Academic, personal, and career guidance counseling should be provided, as needed, during the program.
The Downside of Idaho's Exclusionary Discipline
Getting placed in an IAEP can enormously impact a child's future. It can slow down their academic progress, trigger more behavioral problems, and lead to students dropping out and failing to obtain their high school diplomas. Being isolated from their friends and teachers can also affect their emotional health, which further impacts their academic performance. Although removal from traditional educational programs is meant to be a positive behavior management tool, it can lead to adverse outcomes.
A study conducted by the Center for Court Innovation concluded that schools tend to overuse zero-tolerance approaches to discipline and safety. They found that zero-tolerance policies:
- Increase racial disparities and referrals to the juvenile justice system.
- Likely have adverse effects on child development.
- Create unintended consequences for students, families, and communities that result in higher societal costs.
If your child faces placement in an IAEP, you must become involved to prevent these consequences. Their academic standing, college application, and career prospects depend on it.
Protecting Your Child Experiencing Disciplinary Issues at Their Idaho High School
Parents have a better chance of preventing their children from being sent to an IAEP if they stay active and remain engaged during the disciplinary process. When you become aware of an issue, it's critical to:
- Contact the school immediately and transcribe as much information as possible.
- Call student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento. With his years of experience and dedicated team, he and his team can begin working with you on a strategy once he has the details about your situation.
- Ensure that your child is alright. Speak to them about the incident and ask them to write down what they remember, including interactions with students, teachers, or school administration officials.
- Collect any evidence, including emails, texts, social media posts, and visual documentation, such as photos, if your child has sustained a physical injury during the incident.
- Refer to the school's code of conduct to get more information on how the disciplinary process may proceed.
- Record your contacts with school officials and anyone else. Note the date, time, and length of conversations.
- Keep all written and electronic correspondence relating to the disciplinary process and make copies.
It's critical that you consult with a student defense advisor as early in the process as you can. Once you know this issue can lead to severe disciplinary consequences, including a relocation to an IAEP, you must contact a professional to help you navigate the situation.
How an Experienced Student Defense Advisor Can Help You
When your student faces a temporary placement in an Idaho IAEP, you might think it's not that important of an issue. After all, the limitations of suspensions and expulsions mean your student child may return to school eventually. These misunderstandings can lead to the long-term consequences noted above. You don't want your child falling by the wayside and missing out on the college experience or failing to begin their dream career.
You may also think that school administration officials, MDR team members, and other school employees aren't civil authorities, so you don't need representation, right? The rules surrounding school discipline in Idaho are complex. It takes an experienced student defense advisor to understand the laws and apply them to your child's specific situation to provide them with a better outcome.
If you don't fully grasp Idaho state law or your particular school's code of conduct, you may struggle to defend your child's rights during the disciplinary change in the placement decision process. You need experienced help when your child's future is on the line.
How Joseph D. Lento Can Help Your Child Avoid an IAEP
Inexperienced attorneys typically begin their defense of a student's academic career by threatening expensive lawsuits. Although a formal suit is a possible course of action to keep you or your student child intact with their studies, litigation is rarely necessary. While many attorneys tout their legal expertise in front of judges and juries, those skills don't often translate into proven tactics to mitigate negative consequences in student disciplinary matters.
Few lawyers have demonstrated themselves to be successful student defense advisors like Joseph D. Lento. He coaches students and their parents and guardians to prepare them for MDR hearings and works to negotiate with school administration officials and an institution's Office of General Counsel (OGC) before an IAEP is recommended as behavior remediation. Even if you can't have an advisor present with you at the meetings, Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm can still be an invaluable asset to you and your child as you navigate this tricky situation.
A professional specializing in student discipline defense can help you make sense of complex legislation and its nuances to know your child's rights and how to protect them. A legal specialist in this area can also read the code of conduct for your child's school district and ensure that school administrators follow disciplinary procedures correctly. You don't want the school to abuse its authority and send your hard-working child to an IAEP for a minor offense that can be handled by school administration officials in a traditional situation.
Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have assisted countless students across Idaho and the U.S. in disciplinary matters, allowing them to stand up to their schools and protect their rights effectively. They have the knowledge and experience necessary to support you and your child through a challenging situation with your school board and sanctioning body. Contact the Lento Law Firm by calling 888-535-3686 or visit the online consultation form to protect your child's high school education and future.