Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the Illinois High School System

High school is no cakewalk, and graduation is possible only after a student overcomes many challenges. From dealing effectively with bullies to addressing mental health deficits and overcoming academic struggles, there are countless hurdles that a high school student in Illinois must triumph over before they can graduate. As a parent, you can only do your best to guide your child to succeed.

When students in Illinois face serious discipline from educators, they may face the threat of an alternative educational path. These paths can serve as glaring blemishes on your child's record. You generally want to avoid enrolling your child in alternative disciplinary education tracts when possible.

An attorney-advisor serving Illinois will fight for the best interests of your child. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has found that many mistakes made in high school are correctable, at least with the proper person seeking a solution. On the other hand, allowing your child to enroll in an alternative education path without a fight can have long-term implications for their quality of life.

The State of Illinois Holds the Power to Expel and Reassign Your Child

Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) Sec. 13-43.11 states that the Illinois State Board of Education “shall have the power and the authority to assign to schools within the district and to expel or suspend pupils for disciplinary purposes or to assign or reassign them as the needs of the district or the pupil shall be determined best.”

Do you believe that the Illinois State Board of Education, or you, the parent, knows what is best for your child?

Unfortunately, prevailing statutes grant the state of Illinois great power to determine where your child goes to school, especially if they have a negative disciplinary record. Still, there may be ways to avoid your child being reassigned to a reform-style program in Illinois.

If you read it, you'll notice that the statute referenced above is littered with language like “Department of Juvenile Justice,” “ward,” and “inmate.” These terms indicate the sort of stigma that can come with enrollment in an alternative school.

What Types of Alternative Programs Does Illinois Send Students To?

Illinois School Code Section 13A-3 called for the establishment of at least one “alternative school education program” per “educational service region.” Students like your child may be assigned to an alternative program based largely on geography, meaning that your child could very well be relegated to a bad or even dangerous alternative program simply because it is the closest to their home or school district.

Left to its own devices, the state of Illinois generally has the discretion of what type of facility to send your child to. The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments explains that students disciplined by their school district may be required to take their courses in the form of:

  • Evening school
  • Summer school
  • Vocational training courses
  • Community college courses (if applicable)
  • GED preparation courses
  • Work experience courses

The options that the Board of Education considers for your child may be specific to your child's circumstances. Illinois' Regional Safe School Program (RSSP) serves as a clear example of one type of alternative program your child may be assigned to. Established in 1997, RSSP is “a system of alternative education programs for disruptive students.”

RSSP programs are guided by a “set of guidelines” steered towards outcomes like:

  • Ensuring regular course attendance
  • Reducing disruptive behavior
  • Ensuring completion of coursework
  • Moving the student towards graduation

Sounds positive, right?

While RSSP and other alternative education options in Illinois may have positive results for certain students, your child may not be one of them. In many cases, these alternative education programs leave a stain on your child's record and may significantly harm their chances of gaining entry to a quality university.

Requirements for the Establishment of an Alternative Education Program in Illinois

ILCS 105-5-13B-25 lists the requirements for approval of an alternative education program in Illinois. Those who wish to establish such a program must:

  • Present a description of the program and the students it aims to serve
  • Present a staffing plan
  • Lay out a general schedule for students
  • Present a plan for using any grant funds provided by the state of Illinois
  • Put forth a program budget
  • Present a cost-per-student estimate
  • Present a plan for assessing students' academic performance and behavior

You'll notice that most of these requirements don't pertain to the type or quality of education your child could receive. That's because these schools are focused on discipline first, and education may only be the secondary concern.

Why Might My Child Be Sent to an Alternative Education Program in Illinois?

105 ILCS 5/10-22.6 (b-20) notes that “Out-of-school suspensions of 3 days or less may be used only if the student's continuing presence in school would pose a threat to school safety or a disruption to other students' learning opportunities.” In order to demonstrate that a student should face a long-term suspension, exclusion, expulsion, or reassignment, the state may need to meet a similar threshold.

The statute notes that schools may exercise their discretion on a case-by-case basis, but your child may face suspension, expulsion, and transfer to an alternative education program for:

  • Possessing a firearm, knife, brass knuckles, or other weapon on school property
  • Possessing illegal drugs
  • Possessing any other item or substance that poses a danger to others
  • Engaging in physical violence with another student, teacher, staffer, security guard, or other party on school grounds
  • Engaging in consistent or particularly egregious bullying
  • Possessing alcohol on school grounds or being intoxicated on school grounds
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Using school computers for inappropriate means

Other alleged behaviors, like repeated instances of academic misconduct, may lead your child to a mandatory school transfer. Keep in mind that false allegations can also trigger a reassignment of your child.

Statutory Grounds for Assigning a Student to Alternative Education in Illinois

105 ILCS 5/10-22.6 notes that students found responsible for “gross disobedience” may be investigated, expelled, and “may be immediately transferred to an alternative program.” The statute explains that possessing a firearm or certain weapons, like a knife, brass knuckles, or a billy club generally triggers an automatic minimum one-year expulsion.

Even in these circumstances, the statute notes that the superintendent or school board may modify the expulsion period. Other statutes may also be relevant to your child's disciplinary circumstances. Our team will investigate all relevant statutes as we seek to mitigate the harm your child faces.

Not Every Student Who Misbehaves Should Be Assigned to Alternative Education Programs

High schools in Illinois can use a variety of disciplinary measures that fall short of expulsion and reassignment to an alternative education program. Some measures that any school should exhaust before resorting to expulsion are:

  • Discipline issued by the teacher: In many cases, discipline does not have to extend beyond the classroom. A teacher may handle a disruptive or underperforming student by requiring them to complete additional work, removing them from the group, or taking other measures.
  • Detention: Detention is a frequent response when a student's behavior warrants discipline but does not meet the threshold for a suspension or expulsion. Schools may use multiple detentions when disciplinary problems repeat themselves.
  • In-school suspension, or ISS: An in-school suspension is generally less severe than an out-of-school suspension (OSS). In ISS, a student is removed from their regular coursework and isolated, often required to complete their work without the benefit of socializing with other students.
  • Issuance of a disciplinary contract: A disciplinary contract places formal benchmarks for a student to hit. The student will need to conform to these guidelines or face further discipline.
  • Out-of-school suspension (OSS): Generally, the most serious form of discipline short of expulsion, OSS may be reserved for students who fight, cause chronic disruptions, or have exhausted less severe forms of discipline.
  • Fines and tickets: Students can face monetary fines and tickets for bad behavior in school, though this measure is controversial and often hurts the parent more than the child.

Schools may get creative in the way that they correct students' undesirable behavior. As you can see, there are many ways for a school to discipline a student without expelling them for a year or more, causing irreparable harm to their reputation and future.

Some instances where your child may face expulsion but does not deserve to be expelled or transferred to an alternative education program are:

  • Truancy: Illinois Public Act 100-0810 states that “no punitive action, including out of school suspensions, expulsions or court action, shall be taken against chronic truants for such truancy unless appropriate and available supportive services and other school resources have been provided to the student.” In other words, there may be a high bar to remove your child from school for chronic truancy.
  • Fights for which your child was standing up for another student: Schools in Illinois often blindly label two students who fight as “violent.” If your child got into a physical altercation while defending someone else, defending themselves, or for other justifiable reasons, they should not face expulsion—or any discipline, we might argue.
  • False allegations of wrongdoing: There are many instances where a child is expelled due to false allegations of wrongdoing. Whether your child was falsely accused of having drugs or alcohol, branded a disruption when their behavior was not truly disruptive, or faces other baseless accusations of bad behavior, they deserve a strong defense.

Fortunately, Illinois provides due process to students who are facing serious punitive measures like reassignment to an alternative education program.

What Is the Problem With My Child Attending an Alternative Education Program in Illinois?

If your child has to attend an alternative education program, it sends a clear message to universities, training programs, and others who might view your child's transcript: This student was such a problem that they had to be sent to a reform school.

Even if your child were to perform in a stellar manner at their alternative program, the damage to your kid's reputation is done the moment that they formally enroll.

Some issues that parents often discover when their child attends an alternative education program in Illinois are:

  • Subpar education: Though not every public school in Illinois provides a stellar education, you can bet that many alternative education programs provide a worse educational experience than your typical Illinois public school. Alternative programs may not attract ambitious teachers, may have a neutered, remedial curriculum, and may provide little educational value to your child.
  • Exposure to students far more troubled than your child: Alternative education programs concentrate on “problem” students, placing them in close proximity. This forced exposure to children who may have far more serious behavioral problems could potentially lead your child down an even worse path than they're currently on.
  • Logistical difficulties: Alternative education programs are less abundant than regular public schools in Illinois. You may find it logistically difficult to get your child to their new school, potentially causing inconvenience and expense to your life.

Alternative education programs should be a last resort, reserved only for students who've exhausted all other means of discipline. If your child is facing a lengthy suspension or expulsion that could lead to them attending an alternative education program, now is the time to take action.

What Consequences Might My Child Face If They're Enrolled in Alternative Education?

The Transforming School Discipline Collaborative (TSDC) is an organization that has been vocal about the deficiencies in Illinois' educational policies. It notes that Illinois' tendency to suspend or expel students and place them in alternative educational programs is quantifiably damaging: These policies reduce the chances that a disciplined student will graduate, let alone attend a post-secondary institution.

The practical consequences of being assigned to an alternative education program in Illinois are:

  • Stigma: Your child may feel stigmatized for having to leave their current school and attend an alternative program. This stigma could manifest itself in several ways, from poor self-esteem to anger and related problems that come with these emotions. Stigma may also extend to others, who may perceive your child (fairly or not) as a “troubled” child.
  • Fewer chances for attending college: As you might suspect, university admissions boards look poorly upon students who must attend an alternative education program rather than graduating from regular public high school without incident. Any stint in an Illinois alternative education program could significantly reduce your child's options for secondary education.
  • Fewer career options and opportunities: Having few options for university may restrict the quantity and quality of your child's future employment opportunities. This is the reality of how mistakes today can affect the course of one's life.
  • A lower quality of life: Between having fewer educational opportunities and possibly being relegated to lower-paying careers, an expulsion and assignment to an alternative school could diminish your child's quality of life.

These possible outcomes are not exaggerated. There are real consequences when a child is removed from the Illinois public school system and placed in an alternative reform program. As a parent, your goal must be to do everything in your power to avoid these short- and long-term consequences for your child.

Your Child Deserves Due Process, Including an Expulsion Hearing

Transferring to an alternative education program generally goes hand-in-hand with an expulsion. If we can successfully avoid your child's pending expulsion, then we may also prevent them from having to enroll in alternative education.

Illinois statutes are crystal clear about due process: “Expulsion shall take place only after the parents have been requested to appear at a meeting of the board, or with a hearing officer appointed by it, to discuss their child's behavior.”

During the expulsion hearing, you may have an attorney-advisor:

  • Respond to the allegations against your child
  • Present any evidence that contradicts allegations against your child
  • Argue that your child is not responsible for the allegations against them and therefore should not be expelled
  • Present the case that your child has made mistakes but deserves leniency

Following the hearing, you will receive a decision from the board, including the reasoning behind the board's decision. If the board decides to expel your child, then you'll be informed of your right to review the decision.

Our Team Can Appeal Your Child's Expulsion from High School in Illinois

Parents of children expelled from high school in Illinois have the right to request a review of the decision. Our team can lead the review process on your behalf. Once the school board receives your review notice, you will:

  1. Receive a date and time to meet with the school board
  2. Have the chance to defend your child and plead for a reversal of the initial decision

Your attorney-advisor may be able to attend this review meeting with you and your child.

It is essential that you are as prepared as possible for this review process. Having an attorney-advisor organize your case, prepare you, and provide advice can be invaluable—and may ultimately be the difference between your child remaining in their current school or transferring to an alternative education program.

My Child Is Facing Possible Suspension, Expulsion, and Educational Reassignment in Illinois. What Should I Do Now?

If your child has already been issued an expulsion, or if they are facing a possible expulsion (or even a lengthy suspension), hiring an attorney-advisor should be your first course of action.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have extensive experience helping young people avoid potentially life-changing consequences, especially when there is a more appropriate course of action available. Our firm will quickly develop a plan of action for your child.

Simply hiring an attorney-advisor can provide much-needed peace of mind, but the benefits of hiring a lawyer range well beyond your mental wellbeing.

How a Student Discipline Defense Attorney-advisor Serving Illinois Can Assist Your Child

A student discipline attorney-advisor will do everything in their power to protect your child's future. Our team will:

  • Gather the facts of your child's circumstances: Working with you, your child, your child's school, and other knowledgeable parties, we will gather a complete understanding of why your child is facing possible reassignment to an alternative school.
  • Develop a strategy specific to your child's circumstances: In some cases, it is necessary to clarify a misunderstanding that has landed your child in trouble. In other instances, a child has made a mistake—or series of mistakes—but deserves leniency. We will take an approach that serves your child's unique personal situation.
  • Prepare for your child's expulsion hearing: An expulsion hearing and other formal proceedings can be a critical juncture in your child's case. We will prepare our team, as well as you and your child, for this hearing if it has yet to occur. When the hearing occurs, our team will represent your family (if permitted), making a comprehensive argument for why your child deserves to remain in their current school.Meta Title: Disciplinary Placement Defense in Illinois | Lento Law Firm
  • Contact the necessary authorities within your child's school district: If formal proceedings don't produce the outcome you want for your child, we're prepared to take additional legal action. Before resorting to a lawsuit or other legal measures, we will contact influential officials in the school district and attempt to secure an informal resolution.
  • Take any legal measures that circumstances require: If all else fails, the Lento Law Firm is prepared to take legal steps to protect your child. If this means threatening to file a lawsuit, or actually filing a lawsuit, then we will do so.

Here's the plain truth: An expulsion or suspension resulting in transfer to an alternative education program could change your child's life permanently—and not for the better. Now is the time to pull out all the stops to protect your child, regardless of any mistakes that they have made.

Start by hiring The Lento Law Firm to assist you and your child.

Call The Lento Law Firm Today to Discuss Your Child's Future

High schoolers make mistakes and often repeat those mistakes. Sometimes, high schoolers are also falsely accused or unjustly assigned bad intentions. Mistakes and false allegations shouldn't alter the course of a child's life in Illinois, but they can.

Our law firm focuses heavily on student discipline issues and represents many high schoolers facing disciplinary measures from their school or school district. Let us use our resources and experience in your family's favor.

Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online to submit your case details. There is no time to spare, your child's future is on the line. Call today.

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If you, or your student, are facing any kind of disciplinary action, or other negative academic sanction, and are having feelings of uncertainty and anxiety for what the future may hold, contact the Lento Law Firm today, and let us help secure your academic career.

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