While parents may believe disciplinary action is straightforward, educational culture has changed since they were roaming the halls of their schools. Although many rule infractions may have been addressed with a stern lecture, extra assignments, and a home call home from the school principal in the past, even minor infractions are now common grounds for a separation from studies. Institutions with zero-tolerance disciplinary policies place community perception and public funding above the best wishes of students. Consequently, schools are now bastions of learning among a minefield of punitive obstacles.
Dedicated parents hope to prepare their children to gain the necessary education to leave home and become successful doctors, lawyers, engineers, or teachers. But first, every student must fulfill the qualitative and quantitative requirements to obtain a diploma. During the journey filled with individual assignments, group projects, and community service requirements, hard-working students of good character may succumb to unfortunate situations and face relegation to an unconventional educational placement as a disciplinary measure.
When your child is threatened with severe disciplinary action for misconduct they didn't commit, unfair treatment and consequences can categorize them as perennial offenders. Considering the immense repercussions, it's imperative that you understand how school districts handle misconduct and how it can cause suffering for your child.
Avoid Alternative Education Placement in Kansas
Suspensions and expulsions aren't the only separation measures Kansas schools have in their cache of discipline. One option for frequently misbehaved students is to place them in an interim alternative education setting (IAES). Kansas Statutes §72-4241 gives the Kansas State Board of Education (KSBE) the authority to establish an alternative school for grades seven and above to provide an educational substitute for students determined by the KSBE to be unable to benefit from traditional means in the school district.
An IAES is a helpful foundation for some students to turn their patterns of negative behavior around. Still, for many, the conduct that caused the student's change in placement is often reinforced during their time in an IAES. Moreover, since IAES is viewed as an out-of-sight, out-of-mind solution, problems within the programs are not as open to public scrutiny as in traditional centers of learning. While alternative programs must follow guidelines backed by legislative objectives, they may suffer from an outdated core curriculum, inadequate instruction, and a lack of necessary resources.
Placement in a Kansas IAES can brand your child a delinquent, thus creating the risk of them being subject to unjust treatment. If your child faces a Kansas school disciplinary proceeding, call student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm. They have built their paramount experience on successfully defending students in Kansas and across the U.S.
Student Codes of Conduct for School Discipline in Kansas
The KSBE provides regulations to Kansas school districts to create and maintain a code of conduct—also known as an honor code or student handbook. These written rules outline how students, faculty, and staff are to behave on campus and during school-sponsored events. It also includes the academic thresholds students must meet in order to progress at a pre-determined rate toward graduation.
The code of conduct is a parent's first line of defense in disciplinary matters. Administrators cannot punish arbitrarily. There must be a corresponding consequence to the alleged misconduct. Although each school and district may differ in what it includes in its code of conduct, some common prohibited behaviors are:
- Academic dishonesty
- Classroom disruptions
- Computer and network misuse
- Drug, alcohol, and tobacco use
- Sexual assault, harassment, violence
- Title IX offenses
- Weapons at school
Yet, disciplinary boards do hand out excessive punishments due to bias, conflict of interest, or plain ignorance. Schools may move to impose penalties without understanding how or why they could have occurred in emergency situations. Given the tumultuous time in adolescent years, there are frequently extenuating circumstances that lead students astray. At a time when they need improvement through positive reinforcement, they may very well be sent to an IAES. Uprooting students from their usual learning environment with familiar peers isn't an effective reform tactic to rehabilitate a student in need.
Fortunately, your student defense advisor can represent your child as an individual, not just as a number or statistic belonging to institutionalized education. However, a school may move to remove your child from the classroom without your knowledge.
Emergency Removals in Kansas Schools
Under Kansas Statutes §72-6153, when positive-minded behavioral intercessions are "deemed inappropriate or ineffective" by any school employee to address a student's behavior, the school may perform an emergency safety intervention. This may occur when a student "presents a reasonable and immediate danger of physical harm to such student or others with the present ability to effect such physical harm."
However, limitations are placed on their use and may not be used in the following situations, including:
- For purposes of discipline, punishment, or convenience
- If a student has a known medical condition wherein the intervention would place the student in a mental or physical danger
Moreover, the use of an emergency safety intervention must stop as soon as the immediate danger of physical harm ceases to exist. Once the student is inhibited, they will be placed in seclusion.
According to legislation, seclusion may not involve the use of:
- Chemical restraints (except prescribed treatments for medical or psychiatric conditions by a person appropriately licensed to issue such treatments)
- Communication restraints
- Mechanical restraints (unless those required by law—seatbelts during transportation)
- Physical restraints
Schools will typically have a seclusion room on campus. When a student is placed in the room, a school employee must always be able to see and hear the student. Spaces must also be deemed a "safe place" insofar as they are proportional and characteristically similar to other rooms where students frequent. Such rooms must be devoid of any condition that could be a danger to the student and must have a lock that automatically disengages when a school employee observing the student abandons the seclusion room or in cases of fire or severe weather emergencies.
Each local Kansas school board must also develop and implement policies that conform to the following training standards for school employees:
- Action consistent with nationally recognized training programs
- De-escalation techniques, positive behavioral intervention strategies, and prevention techniques
- Written dispute resolution processes
If your child is subject to an emergency removal, the school must inform you right away. However, each schedule for when parents are provided with notice of the local board's written policies on the use of emergency safety interventions can vary. Parents may file a complaint if they believe the intervention violated their child's rights, but decisions take as long as 30 days from the local board.
Process and Durations for Kansas IAES
Whether in an emergency or not, a student cannot be suspended for more than ten days. Any time a student experiences separation from students via seclusion, long-term suspension, or expulsion, the school administration may seek a change in placement. First, they must conduct a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) pursuant to Kansas Statutes §72-991a.
The purpose of an MDR is to determine whether a student's behavior in either an emergency or non-emergency setting was caused by the school's failure to implement the student's Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), or Section 504 Plan supported under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If the student does not have a named disability, the review may unearth such, and subsequent actions will be taken to provide the student with an IEP.
The IEP Team—school representatives with student familiarity, special education staff, and the student's parents or guardians—will consider all relevant information to understand the possible connection between the sanctioned misconduct and a disability or lack of proper IEP support. Therefore, if your child has regular contact with behavioral counselors, doctors, psychiatrists, or other healthcare professionals, you will want them to be present at the review, so your child is properly represented. Some official disabilities that may warrant the creation of an IEP include, but are not limited to:
- Chronic emotional distress
- Hearing impairment
- Learning disabilities
- Physical limitations
- Speech or language impairment
- Vision damage
Suppose the IEP Team decides that the misconduct in question was caused by a student's disability or because the school failed to properly implement the student's IEP. In that case, the student has the right to return to school immediately under most circumstances. The separation will continue if a disability is undiscovered or if the school followed the student's IEP before the instance of misconduct.
A student may be remanded to an IAES for no more than 45 school days irrespective of their disability under a few circumstances, including if they:
- Carry or possess a weapon to school, on the school premises, or during school-sponsored functions
- Knowingly possess, sell, or use controlled substances while at school, on school premises, or at a school function
- Inflict serious bodily injury upon another person on school campus or property or within the confines of a school-sponsored event
Any child with a disability whose placement is changed will continue to receive:
- Assistance in progressing toward meeting the goals in the child's IEP
- Behavioral intervention services
- Educational services aligned with the general education curriculum
- Functional behavioral assessments
Students could be set to an IAES for up to 186 school days if conduct violations were not a manifestation of a child's disability. It may seem like the end result for your student child, but there are ways to confront the situation.
Challenging the MDR Process
The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) details three ways parents and school staff may resolve special education disputes at the local level. They are as follows:
- Formal complaint
- Due process hearing
Mediation requires both parties—parents and the school administration—to enter into a discussion to resolve disputes. The cost of mediation is borne by the KSDE, providing an avenue for either party to consider alternatives to IAES. As a voluntary process and is written and committed to by the parties rather than ordered by a hearing officer or the KSDE.
Formal complaints may be filed if a party believes that the school district is not complying with federal or state laws or regulations relating to special education, like implementing the student's IEP or affording them provisions listed in IDEA. The formal complaint may be mailed, emailed, or personally delivered to the Special Education Services Team (SEST) at the KSDOE. The SEST must resolve a formal complaint within 30 calendar days unless exceptional circumstances exist.
Due process hearings provide a setting where disagreements about the documentation, evaluation, and educational placement of students with disabilities may be adjudicated. Every due process must be provided for at no cost to the child or their parents. The complaint must allege a violation occurred not more than two years before the date the parent or public agency knew or should have known about the alleged action.
How An IAES Can Negatively Impact Your Child
Getting placed in an IAES, even if it's only temporary, can enormously impact a child's future. Although they are branded as constructive remedial tools, they often have adverse effects on students. IAES can slow down a student's academic progress, generate additional behavioral problems, and lead to students dropping out and failing to obtain their high school diplomas.
Furthermore, when your children return to school after a change in placement, they may be isolated from friends and teachers, causing emotional distress. Even when your child has dealt with their consequences, they may never be the same. Considering the disciplinary action will remain on their student record, there is a significant possibility they will be discriminated against when attempting to enroll in college or secure a job after graduation.
If your child faces placement in an IAES, you must become involved to prevent these counterproductive consequences. Their future depends on it.
Protecting Your Child From IAES in Kansas
Parents have a better chance of preventing their children from being remanded to an IAES 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 directly to hear what they have to say about the alleged situation and how they handle it. Writing down as much information as possible from the beginning is important.
- Call student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento. He and his team at the Lento Law Firm can begin working with you on a strategy to help your child.
- Please speak with your child about the incident and help them to write down what they remember, including interactions with students, teachers, and staff.
- Gather evidence, including emails, texts, social media posts, and visual documentation, such as photos if your child has sustained an 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—written or verbal—with school officials and anyone else. Note the date, time, and length of conversations.
It's essential that you consult with a student defense advisor as early in the process as you can. Relocation to an IAES is often the beginning of a student's downfall, and they need all the help they can get.
How an Experienced Student Defense Advisor Can Help You
When your student faces a temporary change in placement to a Kansas IAES, you may believe it's not that important to act. There are limitations on suspensions, expulsions, and how long your student child can be sent to an IAES. Your child will return to their regular school setting in a few weeks, and they can even begin the following school year anew, right? These are common misconceptions about the Kansas IAES process and may lead to long-term negative consequences.
Moreover, you may think that school administration officials, the IEP Team, and other school employees aren't civil authorities, so you can't benefit from representation. That couldn't be further from the truth.
The rules surrounding school discipline and how local school boards can uproot students from traditional settings in Kansas are complex. You need an experienced student defense advisor that takes the time to understand the state's laws, KSDE policy, the MDR process, IEP ramifications, and situational limitations on changes in placement and apply them to your child's specific condition to provide them with relief. When your child's future is on the line, there's no reason to fight for your child's future without the proper help.
How a Student Defense Advisor Joseph D. Lento Can Keep Your Child Out of an IAES
When a change in placement is on the table, it's common for novice attorneys to begin their defense of a student by threatening lawsuits against the school or local school board. Although a formal suit is a way in which your child can be kept from an IAES, the necessity of litigation is rare. The possibility of such an enormous life change is also stressful enough for parents and their children, and legal proceedings only add to the situation at hand.
Attorneys may also tout their performance and expertise in arguing before judges or in front of grand juries to sway you to retention. However, school disciplinary meetings are not a court of law, and those skills fail to translate into proven negotiation tactics to resolve student matters and keep them intact with their school.
Few have proven themselves to be successful student defense advisors like Joseph D. Lento. He has developed worthwhile relationships with members of institutions' Office of General Counsel (OGC) in local school districts across the state of Kansas and the nation. This gives parents the opportunity to settle a decision that may lead to a suspension, expulsion, or relocation to an IAES before formal proceedings commence. Even if a school prohibits legal representation in their student grievance process, he can coach your child on how to act during the hearing, how to provide a strong defense for themselves and give parents everything they need to know about the appeals process and further avenues of relief.
A professional specializing in student discipline defense can help you make sense of school disciplinary policy to know what rights your child is afforded in disciplinary matters. 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 procedures correctly, like proper timeframes for notice, investigations, hearings, and subsequent sanctions.
Don't let your child's school abuse its authority and send your hard-working student to an IAES for a minor offense. Oftentimes, institutions with zero-tolerance policies overreact in their judgment to please public opinion and retain funding sources. With an experienced defense advisor, you'll learn that effective representation can lead to school administration officials handling situations individually with the student's best interests in mind.
Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have assisted countless students in Kansas in disciplinary matters, allowing them to stand up to their school's harsh punitive measures. Protect your child's rights with a team staffed with the knowledge and experience necessary to support you through a challenging situation with your school and its sanctioning body. Contact the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686 or visiting the online consultation form.