Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the Iowa High School System

Concern over Iowa Alternative Education Placement

Students facing disciplinary placement in Iowa alternative education programs have good reasons to fight the disciplinary charges. And their parents have just as good reasons to support their student's fight to preserve their traditional high school enrollment. Education advocates assert that, far from schools of choice, alternative schools instead involuntary sentence failing students to further languish. Education researchers discern a national consensus that alternative education banishes troubled students to structureless environments doing more harm than good. Even teachers admit viewing alternative education as good riddance of trouble-making students who they assume are future convicts. Ouch. Alternative education has always held promise. But the promise seems rarely fulfilled, especially for students forced into boot camp-like disciplinary schools or what we used to call reform schools. Iowa, like most other states mandating alternative education for disciplined students, surely tries to make the best of it. But forced disciplinary placement just isn't a working formula for most students.

The Route to Iowa Disciplinary Placement

Of course, Iowa high school students don't just stumble into alternative education. Instead, the route to alternative education generally requires behavioral issues leading to school discipline. Yes, some students get pregnant, have children, and need or benefit from alternative education to fulfill parenting duties. But in most cases, discipline is the unfortunate path into alternative education. And indeed, Iowa high schools charge students with all types of behavioral misconduct. Both public and private Iowa high schools implement behavioral codes that authorize the schools to remove students to alternative education. Disciplinary charges should be for serious offenses threatening school safety. But education advocates assert that schools also send students there for minor things like misusing a cell phone. Alternative disciplinary placement is not ordinarily an attractive choice but instead a punishment to vigorously resist. National school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento is available in Iowa to defend and defeat high school disciplinary charges. Preserve your student's traditional Iowa high school placement. Fight for your student's future.

Iowa Alternative Education Students

Iowa Administrative Code 12.2(256) defines an alternative school in neutral terms as “an environment established apart from the regular educational program and that includes policies and rules, staff, and resources designed to accommodate student needs and to provide a comprehensive education consistent with the student learning goals and content standards established by the school district or by the school districts participating in a consortium.” Hidden within that definition is the fact that Iowa alternative schools are for at-risk students, whom the same administrative code defines as a student “who needs additional support and who is not meeting or not expected to meet the established goals of the educational program (academic, personal/social, career/vocational). At-risk students include homeless children and youth, dropouts, returning dropouts, and potential dropouts.” Iowa Code Section 280.19A requires schools to “provide alternative options education programs to students who are either at-risk of dropping out or have dropped out.” And there you have it: Iowa alternative education is largely for dropouts or projected dropouts. That's not the student population you generally want your student to join.

Iowa Alternative High Schools

Many Iowa school districts establish their own alternative education schools. But Iowa Code Section 280.19A permits school districts to instead contract with areawide community college-run alternative education programs. Iowa high schools thus offer a wider variety of alternative education programs, some run by the high school but others operated by outsiders and serving several districts. Iowa has about fifteen alternative education schools serving around 1,600 students. Those alternative schools include Metro High School in Cedar Rapids, the Individualized Learning Center in Le Mars, Expo Alternative Learning Center in Waterloo, Mid City High School in Davenport, Wisdomquest Education Center in Mount Pleasant, Walnut Creek Campus in West Des Moines, and West Academy Alternative School in Newton. Unfortunately, even Iowa's best alternative schools rank in the bottom half of schools on math and reading scores. Alternative schools generally serve not only a behaviorally troubled student population but a student population with lower academic scores.

Iowa High School Disciplinary Grounds

Iowa disciplinary placement requires disciplinary grounds. Your student must generally do something wrong to get sent to an alternative school. Iowa law authorizes local school boards to list disciplinary grounds in extensive student codes of conduct. Iowa Code Section 279.66 requires local school boards to publish discipline and personal conduct standards in the student handbook. The board must design those policies “to promote responsible behavior on school property and at school functions” among students. Under Iowa Code Section 279.58, a school's personal conduct standards may include a dress code. Under Iowa Code Section 280.28, the school's personal conduct code must prohibit bullying and harassment. Other laws require the school to punish truancy and prohibit alcohol, tobacco, controlled substances, and weapons in the school. Under Iowa Code Section 280.17B, a school suspending or expelling a student for weapons offenses must provide continued schooling for that student, often in an alternative school. Under Iowa Code Section 282.4, a school must also suspend a student for assaulting a teacher.

Iowa High School Student Conduct Major Offenses

Iowa disciplinary grounds, though, go far beyond the state-mandated major offenses. Under the student code of conduct, your Iowa high school student could face disciplinary placement in alternative education for any number of other offenses. High schools across the state, including in Des Moines, Davenport, Waterloo, and other urban and rural parts of the state, publish detailed conduct codes listing major and minor offenses. Generally, only major offenses warrant out-of-school suspensions or expulsions. The Des Moines Public Schools, for instance, publish Student Discipline Code and Procedures listing the following major offenses directly punishable by suspension or expulsion:

  • fighting;
  • possessing flammable materials;
  • gambling;
  • theft or stealing;
  • possessing weapons or ammunition;
  • possessing fireworks;
  • failing to comply with orders of school officials;
  • disruptive protests;
  • sexual harassment, indecent exposure, or sexual advances;
  • participating in an unauthorized organization;
  • hazing, intimidation, extortion, or bullying;
  • vandalism;
  • drug or alcohol possession; and
  • false fire alarms or damage to fire equipment.

Iowa High School Discipline for Minor Offenses

The above list shows just so-called major offenses directly leading to suspension. Significantly, the Des Moines Public Schools student code just cited above, like other student codes across Iowa, also permit the school to suspend for chronic or repeated minor offenses. Minor offenses warranting suspension when chronic or repeated include such petty things as tardiness, cutting class, eating in class, horseplay, dress code violations, use of another's password, smoking, forging school records, profane or vulgar language, cell phone misuse, loitering, cafeteria disturbances, inappropriate emails, and disrupting class. The lesson is that Iowa high school disciplinary officials can suspend students and seek alternative disciplinary placement for just about any misconduct, giving them broad discretion to exercise subjective judgment. Don't let your student face disciplinary placement over minor offenses. Retain national school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento to defend and defeat Iowa high school disciplinary charges.

Iowa High School Suspensions and Expulsions

Iowa law leaves no question that high school disciplinary officials have the authority to suspend and expel students for the above offenses. Iowa Code Section 282.4 authorizes the school district's board to remove students whenever a majority of the board votes to do so: “The board may, by a majority vote, expel any student from school for a violation of the regulations or rules established by the board, or when the presence of the student is detrimental to the best interests of the school.” If your student has violated the high school's student code of conduct, especially in a way that school officials may construe as detrimental to the school, then your student faces a real and substantial risk of suspension or expulsion. The same code section requires the board to hold a disciplinary hearing if the board determines to expel the student related to an assault. Get the skilled and experienced attorney advisor representation your student needs when facing Iowa disciplinary placement.

Iowa High School Disciplinary Due Process

Iowa law isn't more specific as to required procedures for suspensions or expulsions beyond the above brief mention of the possibility of a board hearing for student assaults. Yet Iowa Administrative Regulation 281-12.3(6) requires the school board's student conduct code and disciplinary procedures to assure that accused students have due process: “The policies shall ensure due process rights for students and parents, including consideration for students who have been identified as requiring special education programs and services.” Students must therefore look to the school's student code of conduct for the protective procedures that will ensure a fair process. Federal constitutional law guarantees that fair process in cases involving longer-term suspensions or expulsions. Due process typically includes fair notice of the charges and evidence against the student and a fair opportunity for the student to tell the student's side before an impartial decision maker. Due process ensures that your retained attorney advisor can make a difference in your student's disciplinary outcome.

Example Iowa High School Disciplinary Procedures

Iowa high school student codes of conduct generally include relatively detailed disciplinary procedures for school officials to follow. For example, Davenport Central High School's student handbook includes a Student Conduct and Discipline Policy that authorizes the school principal, district superintendent, or district board to suspend or expel students violating conduct standards. The policy describes it as “discretionary authority.” The school must notify the suspended student and the student's parents of the reasons for the suspension. For suspensions of more than a few days, the policy requires the Discipline Hearing Officer to “review any documentation regarding the event[, …] meet with the student, student's parent/guardian, and/or student advocate to ask questions[,] and allow for any such parties to present information regarding the conduct in question.” The Hearing Officer then determines “where the student will be allowed to attend school (for example another high school or [the alternative] Keystone Academy), the period of time the student will attend such school, and the conditions for allowing the student to return to his/her original school.” Expulsions require a school board hearing. Other Iowa high schools have similar procedures. The Waterloo Community Schools Student Conduct Code, for another example, guarantees due process, including a board hearing for suspensions of more than ten days.

Representation at Iowa High School Disciplinary Proceedings

Skilled and experienced attorney advisor representation can be critical to a positive outcome of your Iowa high school student's disciplinary hearing. Hearing procedures like notice of the charges, the opportunity to review the school's evidence, and the opportunity to attend a hearing, present witnesses, and question adverse witnesses, can help an accused student defend and defeat disciplinary charges. But those procedures are not self-executing. Indeed, the school may not even offer any such procedures unless you and your student act affirmatively to answer the charges and request and attend a hearing. The school may instead construe your inaction as your agreement with the charges and the proposed alternative placement. You and your student need to act strategically, firmly, and clearly in your student's defense. National school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm student defense team offer exactly that kind of swift, thoughtful, and effective advocacy. Going it alone, without representation, can ruin your student's chances of preserving the traditional high school placement. So, too, can retaining an unqualified local criminal defense attorney. Instead, get your student the premier help your student needs by retaining attorney advisor Lento.

Iowa Disciplinary Proceeding Informal Resolution

Invoking formal disciplinary procedures can be a critical first step toward a winning defense. At the same time, though, national school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento will be communicating and negotiating with your student's school disciplinary officials for an early informal resolution. Formal procedures may be necessary. Sometimes, disciplinary officials just won't relent. But often, the right firm but sensitive approach to those officials may lead them to see the wisdom of dismissing the charges. Attorney advisor Lento knows how to present a student's defense in terms that disciplinary officials can and will often accept. That presentation includes showing those officials how early informal resolution is in both the student's interest and the school's interest. The school's goal in a disciplinary proceeding should remain to educate the student. Attorney advisor Lento's creative offers and trustworthy assurances of the student's counseling, tutoring, mentoring, and other special support can meet school concerns that the student is ready, willing, and able to comply with the school's reasonable behavioral expectations. Retain attorney advisor Lento so that he can negotiate your student's retention in the traditional high school program.

Appealing Iowa High School Discipline

Appeals are another hallmark of school disciplinary processes. An appeal is a losing student's request that a higher official or body review the suspension and alternative disciplinary placement. Iowa high schools generally allow for such appeals. The Des Moines Public Schools Student Discipline Code and Procedures, for example, provide for an appeal to the district administration of any level III discipline resulting in out-of-school suspension. The parent must appeal to the district office within five days of the suspension decision. The student discipline code provides for a further appeal of expulsion decisions, noting, “Iowa law provides for the appeal of a school board determination to expel a student to the Iowa State Department of Education.” An appeal, though, requires more than a brief letter complaining of the suspension. A winning appeal requires a firm, compelling, and documented challenge to the legal and factual basis for the suspension. Winning appeals require skilled and experienced representation from a qualified academic administrative attorney. National school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento has that skill and experience. Retain attorney advisor Lento for your student's winning appeal.

Special Relief from Iowa Alternative Placement

Parents sometimes fail to seek qualified attorney advisor representation until after they have exhausted all formal avenues and procedures, with their student still facing alternative disciplinary placement. While waiting until after the case is lost is not a sound defense approach, special relief may still be available. National school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento has successfully preserved the traditional enrollment of many students at this late stage, by reaching out to school oversight officials. Iowa school districts, like schools elsewhere, typically maintain a general counsel office, outside retained counsel, ombuds office, or similar oversight function to reduce the school's litigation, liability, and regulatory risks. Schools don't like to get sued, fined, or publicly embarrassed over their discipline decisions. Attorney advisor Lento has the national reputation and relationships to gain the trust and confidence of school oversight officials. He also has the wisdom, words, and insights to convince those officials that other, more-positive measures can safely preserve the student's traditional high school enrollment while eliminating litigation and regulatory risks. Retain attorney advisor Lento to explore special oversight relief for your student, even if your student's disciplinary matter is already lost and over.

The Value of Avoiding Iowa Disciplinary Placement

To invest wisely in your student's defense of Iowa high school disciplinary charges, you need to know the costs of not making that investment. You've seen above that Iowa alternative disciplinary placement can subject your student to poor or unstructured instruction among troubled students with dangerous propensities, mental and emotional disturbances, and academic deficiencies. That's not a combination for academic success. Dropout from the alternative placement can be a real risk. But disciplinary placement carries other costs. Disciplinary placement can close the door to the college or university that your student hopes to attend. Disciplinary placement can also close the door to vocational programs and certifications that your student might want or need to pursue. And that's just the short term. In the long term, disciplinary placement can cost your student education, jobs, and careers. High school graduation should be your student's launching pad to success. Don't let your student's high school experience instead become a path to failure. Retain the skilled and experienced attorney advisor representation that your student's future needs and deserves.

Other Impacts of Iowa Disciplinary Placement

Disciplinary placement can have plain and measurable economic impacts. Your student's financial future could be at stake in your student's disciplinary proceeding. But disciplinary placement also has non-monetary impacts that can be harder to measure. Disciplinary placement removes your student from peers, teachers, administrators, mentors, and friends. Every high school student has at least one peer or teacher they'd rather avoid. But high school students generally depend deeply on their school community for their healthy physical, mental, and social development and support. A high school student's healthy development involves more than classroom instruction. High school is much more than mere academics. Healthy high school development also involves the student's active and frequent participation in school art, athletics, music, recreational, and social events and activities. Disciplinary placement can set your student's social development back. It can also hurt your student's mental, physical, and emotional health. Depression, substance abuse, and suicide attempts happen to high school students, sometimes triggered by traumatic life events. Don't let disciplinary placement be one of your student's life events.

Retain Premier Defense for Iowa Disciplinary Proceedings

You may well understand that your student needs skilled and experienced attorney advisor representation for a winning defense of Iowa high school disciplinary proceedings. Yet you may mistakenly believe that a local criminal defense attorney can provide qualified and winning services. That is not generally the case. Criminal defense attorneys know how to practice criminal law against prosecutors and before judges in criminal courts. That practice is a far cry from high school academic administrative disciplinary defense. High school disciplinary officials have very different expectations for how an effective student representative should communicate and act than local criminal defense attorneys ordinarily communicate and act. Don't retain an unqualified representative who lacks the required knowledge, skill, and experience, and doesn't know school language, forms, and customs. Instead, retain national school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento. The Lento Law Firm has successfully defended hundreds of students nationwide. He has the skill and experience that you know you can trust for your student's winning defense. Call 888-535-3686 or go online now.

Contact Us Today!

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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