Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the Indiana High School System

Disciplinary placement in an alternative education program isn't a high school student's dream or ambition. It's more like a high school student's worst nightmare. You and your Indiana high school student have likely seen the sad examples in film and literature if not in your own hometown. Students can languish severely in alternative high schools. Alternative high schools may have laudable goals and roles. But parents and students, not to mention the many critics of alternative education, see other evidence that students banished to alternative high schools lose rather than embrace their dreams and ambitions. If your Indiana high school student faces disciplinary charges that threaten banishment to an alternative school, retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. Don't let false, unfair, unnecessary, and unsupported disciplinary charges ruin your student's education and future. Instead, retain the best available school discipline defense attorney. Your student's future is on the line.

Indiana Alternative Education

Alternative education may sound positive or even attractive if your student is facing disciplinary charges in your student's traditional Indiana high school. But don't be fooled. Alternative education means placing the student in a separate school, usually for truancy or other disciplinary reasons. Indiana has different kinds of alternative education programs, like separate schools for pregnant or parenting students and so-called second chance or last chance schools for disruptive students. Those schools can be fine for students who need them as a last resort. But no matter the alternative education program's form, alternative education is not for the student who is thriving in a traditional high school setting. Indiana's Department of Education states it plainly: "Alternative Education programs are designed to meet the needs of public school students in grades 6-12 who have not been successful in the traditional setting." The alternative education student population is a challenged rather than healthy population, filled with students having besetting problems. According to one university study, more than a third of alternative education students are there because they were disruptive, while another third were failing academically, and a fifth had dropped out or were about to do so. Don't be naive about alternative education. It isn't for the well-balanced and well-formed student who is thriving or could thrive in a traditional high school.

Indiana Alternative Education Programs

Indiana's Department of Education maintains a list of the state's alternative education programs. The programs typically identify themselves as alternative or disciplinary in form with names that include terms like "Alternative," "Fresh Start," "Rebound," "Care," "Life" or "Life Skills," "Learning Center," "Expectant Mothers," "Striving," "Customized," "Rise Up," "Hold On," and "Opportunities" or "Second Opportunity." The academic record of a student attending an alternative education program will generally reflect the student's disciplinary placement, which the student would generally have to disclose to colleges, universities, vocational programs, and employers in any case. While many Indiana alternative education programs are simply separate schools the district itself runs, Indiana programs have a greater variety than similar programs in other states because Indiana law permits greater district collaboration opportunities. The Indianapolis Public Schools are an example, offering alternative high schools in collaboration with the Marion County Jail, a Graduation Academy for pregnant, parenting, and socially or emotionally disabled students, a Positive Supports Academy for students with behavioral issues, and a Simon Youth Academy that places students in vocational settings. These programs are wonderful for students with deep behavioral issues and special needs but are not for the student who is already thriving in a traditional high school program. Don't let your student end up where your student doesn't belong. Keep your student on track in the traditional high school program.

Indiana Alternative Education Program Challenges

Alternative education is necessarily different from traditional high school education because of the students' academic, emotional, behavioral, and social issues. Alternative education generally doesn't have the classroom structure, curricular and extracurricular options, and empowering freedoms of a traditional high school. Instead, every student in an Indiana alternative education program progresses under an Individualized Service Plan where, in theory, multidisciplinary team members closely regulate the student's behavior–that is, if the alternative program has the qualified and dedicated staff and abundant resources necessary to provide the planned and required supervision and services. But resources and staffing are part of the alternative education problem, which advocacy organizations call short-term solutions with long-term consequences. As another advocacy organization puts it, students don't choose alternative education programs; they instead get "sentenced to them." In short, your Indiana high school student's desire to avoid disciplinary placement at all costs represents a highly reasonable ambition. Retain national high school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to defend your Indiana high school student against disciplinary placement. Make no mistake: your student's traditional high school placement, whether at a public or private high school, is worth defending.

Harm from Indiana Disciplinary Placement

It's not just that disciplinary placement in alternative education won't generally serve your Indiana high school student as well as remaining in the traditional high school setting. It's not just that the classes, courses, teachers, and students are different. In the worst cases, alternative education can harm the removed student. Another advocacy organization asserts that alternative education worsens the glaring inequities for students already facing challenges. Rigid, inflexible, and poorly constructed and managed alternative programs define their students by their deficits rather than by their positive characteristics and appropriate ambitions and commitments. Alternative education programs generally avoid deep learning and transformative experiences, while failing to offer the necessary emotional support services for students already traumatized and stigmatized by their experiences. "The prevailing design punishes students for having volatile lives by offering an inferior education," the report concludes. Don't let that be your Indiana high school student's experience. Instead, retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for your student's best defense against Indiana high school disciplinary placement.

Legal Grounds for Indiana Disciplinary Placement

Disciplinary placement is a real risk for Indiana high school students facing disciplinary proceedings. Indiana law authorizes high school principals to expel students from the school while requiring them to attend an alternative education program. Indiana Code 20-33-8-24 expressly provides that the principal may require the expelled student to attend an alternative education program or night school. Indeed, under Indiana Code 20-33-8-31, the student sent to alternative education must attend the alternative school or face custody under Indiana Code 20-33-2-23, the state's compulsory school attendance. Yet Indiana law limits the grounds on which high schools can send students to alternative education. Those limitations can give your student's retained school discipline defense attorney a clear basis on which to challenge your student's expulsion from the traditional high school. Under Indiana Code 20-30-8-10, the high school may only place the student in an alternative education program if the student meets at least one of these criteria:

  • the student intends to withdraw or has withdrawn from the high school, effectively as a dropout;
  • the student has failed to comply academically, meaning that the student is failing or has failed, and would benefit from alternative instruction not available in a traditional high school;
  • the student is a parent or expectant parent who is unable to regularly attend the traditional high school program because of physical needs or parenting duties;
  • the student is employed, the employment is necessary for the support of the student or the student's immediate family, and the employment interferes with the student's instruction; or
  • the student is disruptive as the school discerns and defines behaviors for orderly learning.

Misconduct as Grounds for Indiana Disciplinary Placement

You can see from the last item in the above statutory list, and from the statistics cited further above, that student misconduct is a main grounds for Indiana disciplinary placements. Misconduct allegations can get your student sent to alternative education. Yet the authority of an Indiana high school principal to discipline a disruptive student by sending the student to an alternative education program requires the principal to prove the student's disruptive misconduct. Indiana high schools, like schools elsewhere, adopt student codes of conduct to regulate student behavior and define disruptive misconduct. The Indianapolis Public Schools and Fort Wayne Community Schools are good examples. The lengthy Student Code of Conduct for the Indianapolis Public Schools authorizes progressive corrective actions right up to school expulsion, which would mean disciplinary placement in alternative education. So does the Fort Wayne Community Schools' Code of Conduct within its Student and Family Support Guide. The Indianapolis Public Schools' Student Code of Conduct and Fort Wayne Community Schools' Code of Conduct, typical of codes at other Indiana high schools, list the following grounds for discipline:

  • assault, battery, and other violent acts injuring or threatening others;
  • bullying, cyberbullying, discrimination, or harassment of another student;
  • sexual assault or sexual harassment;
  • plagiarism, cheating, and other academic dishonesty;
  • disrupting the classroom environment or school activities;
  • other acts of insubordination toward school officials;
  • endangering students, teachers, and others;
  • violating student's religious and other freedom rights;
  • violations of the school dress code;
  • drugs, alcohol, or other illegal substances on school grounds;
  • misuse of the internet and computer technology;
  • misuse of personal electronic devices like sexting;
  • trespassing and unauthorized use of school facilities;
  • damaging school property and equipment;
  • theft, misuse, or destruction of another's property;
  • arson and misuse of fire alarms or equipment;
  • possession of fireworks or explosives on school grounds;
  • obscenity or pornography on school grounds;
  • gang or other group activity coercing property or behavior;
  • other criminal activity on school grounds; and
  • excessive absences and tardiness.

Indiana High School Disciplinary Patterns

Indiana Department of Education statistics show that Indiana schools impose out-of-school suspensions or expulsions on over five percent of students annually. That discipline rate means that more than one out of every twenty Indiana high school students gets kicked out of school in any one school year. That's a whole lot of suspensions and expulsions. Your student can look around any classroom of twenty or more students and imagine that one of those students will get kicked out of school. Indiana school advocates assert that school discipline occurs in unfortunate patterns influenced by the student's race, disability, socioeconomic status, and other factors. They also cite American Psychological Association research suggesting that "many widely-used school disciplinary techniques are counterproductive and actually negatively impact student achievement, increase students' risk of dropping out, and increase the likelihood that students disciplined in schools would become involved with the criminal justice system." The patterns of high school discipline in Indiana, like discipline patterns in other states, aren't pretty. Don't let your student become a part of those unfortunate statistics. Instead, retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to ensure that your student's Indiana high school treats your student fairly. Let attorney Lento help your student complete the educational program in the traditional high school setting most conducive to your student's learning.

Indiana Disciplinary Placement Procedures

Indiana high schools must provide due process to students who face expulsion and disciplinary placement in alternative education. The hallmarks of due process are notice and an opportunity for the student to present the student's side of the story to an impartial decision maker. Indiana high schools adopt procedures to ensure due process. The Student Code of Conduct for the Indianapolis Public Schools is an example stating, "Whenever a student is accused of committing a violation of the Student Code of Conduct, he or she has the right to due process." The Student Code of Conduct requires school staff to investigate and gather evidence to determine what happened before making any disciplinary decisions. The Student Code of Conduct further requires that the school not only notify the student of the disciplinary charges but also disclose the evidence supporting the charge. The school must then give the student "an opportunity to present his or her side of the case" before the school decides whether to discipline the student. The procedures are there for your student's defense. The question is how wisely and effectively you and your student will use them.

Attorney Role in Indiana Disciplinary Placement Hearings

If your Indiana high school student faces disciplinary charges that could result in placement in alternative education, retain national school discipline defense advisor Joseph D. Lento to help your student defend and defeat the charges. Do not retain an unqualified local criminal defense attorney who is unfamiliar with high school disciplinary laws, customs, and procedures. A skilled and experienced high school discipline defense attorney can help you and your student accomplish each of these critical tasks to avoid Indiana high school disciplinary placement:

  • evaluate the school's notice and charges against Indiana requirements;
  • discover and evaluate the school's evidence allegedly supporting charges;
  • promptly answer and firmly deny false, unfair, and exaggerated charges;
  • invoke your student's right to a hearing to present your student's side;
  • identify, collect, and present exonerating and mitigating evidence;
  • communicate, advocate, and negotiate for dismissal of false charges;
  • appeal unfair and unsupported adverse decisions to higher authorities;
  • identify and communicate with school oversight officials for special relief;
  • evaluate, threaten, and, if necessary, conduct civil litigation enforcing rights.

Appeals from Indiana Disciplinary Placement

Indiana high school disciplinary procedures include your student's right to appeal an adverse decision sending your student to alternative education. An appeal is a second chance to present arguments to a different school official for a new decision. Appeal procedures differ from district to district. For example, the Student Code of Conduct for the Indianapolis Public Schools provides for a two-level appeal, first to the school principal and then to the district's executive director of schools. In that district, appeals involve promptly preparing a detailed written argument explaining why the disciplinary decision was erroneous. Fort Wayne Community Schools policies also provide for a two-level appeal but to different appeal officials, first to the superintendent's designee and then to the district's board of trustees. At the first level, the superintendent's designee may consider the full record of what happened and make a new decision on that evidence. At the second level, the board of trustees only considers appeals that involve new evidence not previously available or that raise significant new policy questions.

Attorney Role in Disciplinary Placement Appeals

Retain national school discipline defense advisor Joseph D. Lento for your Indiana high school student's appeal of disciplinary placement. While the school's published appeal procedures may make it sound like an appeal simply involves submitting a letter to the school, winning appeals instead require substantial skills in preparing compelling written presentations. Your student's retained school discipline defense attorney must first obtain and review the hearing record, identifying the unsupported charges and other errors. Your student's retained attorney must then write an appeal brief that analyzes the law and evidence to show the appeal decision maker that the underlying decision was wrong, no matter how much the appeal officials trust and respect that decision maker. School discipline appeals also generally have very short time limits, meaning that the review and drafting must occur swiftly and surely, drawing on the appeal attorney's considerable experience. Don't undertake your student's appeal on your own without the skilled and experienced representation your student needs. Instead, trust attorney Lento for a winning appeal of your student's high school disciplinary placement.

Alternative Special Relief from Indiana Disciplinary Placement

Don't give up the fight if your Indiana high school student has exhausted all hearings and appeals without success. Instead, retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to identify and pursue alternative avenues for special relief. Attorney Lento has successfully represented hundreds of students nationwide against false, unfair, and exaggerated misconduct charges. Attorney Lento's considerable knowledge, skills, and experiences have earned him a deserved national reputation among school attorneys and disciplinary officials. School districts maintain general counsel offices and retain outside counsel with oversight responsibility, to ensure that the school treats students lawfully and fairly. Those oversight officials generally have the authority to reverse and correct harsh, unfair, and unwise decisions that could lead to public embarrassment, internal distrust, regulatory review, and civil litigation. Attorney Lento is often able to communicate and negotiate with those school oversight officials for special relief and reinstatement of the disciplined student. Don't give up the good fight until your student has exhausted every possible channel.

School Discipline Defense Value

Retaining national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento instead of an unqualified local criminal defense attorney is worth it to your student. Don't measure the risk of your student's disciplinary charges by the short-term consequences, including your student having to attend an alternative school. Instead, consider the full picture of your student's character, commitments, dreams, ambitions, and future. High school students have their whole adult lives ahead of them. Their ambitions may include college or university, graduate or professional school, jobs and careers, marriage and family, and a flourishing and satisfying life of achievement and adventure. The value of those dreams and ambitions is enormous, and incalculable. Disciplinary placement can threaten every one of those laudable dreams and ambitions. Considering your student's enormous interest in your student's future, investing in aggressive and effective school discipline defense makes great sense. Now is not the time to pinch pennies and cut corners. Your student's future deserves your full commitment to defending and defeating unnecessary, unwise, and damaging disciplinary charges.

Indiana High School Discipline Defense

National school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team offer premier school discipline defense services nationwide. Attorney Lento has helped hundreds of students nationwide successfully defend and defeat school misconduct charges of all kinds. Your student's Indiana high school location, and the nature of the disciplinary charges, do not matter. Attorney Lento is available for your student's defense across Indiana. Trust attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to defend and defeat your Indiana high school student's disciplinary placement. Call 888-535-3686 or go online now.

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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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