Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the Louisiana High School System

High school disciplinary charges can and should frighten your Louisiana high school student, especially with the prospect of alternative education placement. Disciplinary charges against your student can and should also deeply concern you. Think boot camp, court school, or reform school. Louisiana high schools charge students with all types of behavioral misconduct, whether at public or private high schools. In the best of worlds, disciplinary charges can preserve safety and order at the high school. But Louisiana high school disciplinary officials can also make mistakes, overreach their authority, and make subjective or even biased and retaliatory judgments as to which students to charge. And sometimes, a school just, unfortunately, wants to get rid of the challenge of educating students who need and deserve special support, services, and attention. Disciplinary charges can result in suspension and expulsion of your student. Louisiana laws authorizing school discipline are broad enough to give school officials abundant discretion to suspend. Respect the risk your student faces with Louisiana high school disciplinary charges. Hire national school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team for a winning defense of your Louisiana high school student. Don't let your student's disciplinary officials send your student to alternative disciplinary education. Preserve your student's traditional Louisiana high school enrollment.

Louisiana Alternative Education

Louisiana law requires school districts to offer suspended or expelled students' alternative education. Louisiana law also requires suspended or expelled students to attend that alternative education. On its face, Louisiana Code Section 416.2 makes the school district responsible to the suspended or expelled student to continue to provide educational services. That sounds like a positive assurance. But that authorization gives a Louisiana high school the opportunity to move a student whom school officials believe to be troublesome or burdensome into an alternative program that doesn't offer traditional classroom structure, the full high school experience, and abundant support services. Indeed, Louisiana Code Section 416.2 defines alternative education to mean “programs designed to offer variations of traditional instructional programs and strategies for the purpose of increasing the likelihood that students who are unmotivated or unsuccessful in traditional programs or who are disruptive in the traditional school environment remain in school and obtain a high school diploma.” Alternative programs are, in short, for troubled students. Indeed, Louisiana Code Section 416.2 continues that “[a]lternative programs may include … programs that hold students to strict standards of behavior in highly structured and controlled environments, sometimes referred to as boot camps, police schools, or court schools.” Boot camp isn't your student's ambition. Nor is it likely your ambition for your student.

Students Qualifying for Louisiana Alternative Education

The student population at a Louisiana alternative education school is indeed a troubled student population. If your student suffers suspension or expulsion and placement in alternative education because of pending disciplinary charges, then your student will join that troubled student population. It's not likely where you want your student to go. Louisiana Code Section 416.2 authorizes traditional high schools to send only certain students to alternative education. For school disciplinary officials to send a student to alternative education, the student must:

  • Have been adjudicated delinquent by a court having juvenile jurisdiction
  • Have been adjudicated by a court as a member of a family in need of services and be assigned by the office of juvenile justice to a community-based program or facility
  • Be in the custody of the office of juvenile justice as a result of adjudication and be assigned by the office of juvenile justice to a community-based program or facility
  • Have been suspended or expelled

Louisiana Alternative Education Services

Louisiana law requires alternative education programs to provide abundant services to students involuntarily committed to those programs. That's the good news. But the types of behavioral assessments and services for troubled students that Louisiana law mandates may not fit your student at all. Louisiana Code Section 17:416.2 requires alternative education programs to provide targeted behavioral interventions, behavioral supports, behavioral shaping, mental health interventions, cognitive behavioral interventions, monthly assessments, credit recovery, vocational options, life skills interventions, and social skills interventions. While these mandated interventions are certainly well-meaning, one of the criticisms of alternative education is the plethora of administrative activities distracting from academic learning time. Your student may not need or benefit from any of these burdensome behavioral interventions, all of which may deter and distract your student from productive academic studies. Don't accept the recommendation of school disciplinary officials that your student attend alternative education without first consulting skilled and experienced counsel to ensure that you understand all potential adverse impacts.

Louisiana High School Disciplinary Authority

Louisiana law clearly authorizes high schools to discipline, suspend, and expel students. Louisiana law also specifies the grounds on which school disciplinary officials may suspend or expel a student. The list of statutory grounds for suspension or expulsion is so long and, in places, so vague as to reach many behaviors that your student may consider to be safe, inoffensive, and even customary among high school students. Don't underestimate the scope and reach of these statutory grounds. School officials can use these grounds subjectively to give them broad discretion to suspend or expel your student. Take most seriously any disciplinary charge that arguably falls within the statutory grounds. Louisiana Code Section 17:416 lists the following grounds on which a high school principal may suspend or expel the accused student:

  • Willful disobedience or intentional disrespect of a teacher or other school official
  • Making an unfounded charge against a teacher or other school official
  • Using unchaste or profane language
  • Immoral or vicious practices or conduct injurious to others
  • Possession or use of tobacco, alcoholic beverages, or controlled dangerous substances
  • Disturbing the school and habitually violating any rule
  • Defacing any school building or bus
  • Writing profane or obscene language or drawing obscene pictures in or on any school material or premises
  • Carrying firearms, knives, or other weapons, the careless use of which might inflict harm or injury
  • Throwing missiles likely to injure others on school grounds
  • Instigating or participating in fights while under school supervision
  • Violating traffic and safety regulations
  • Leaving the school premises without permission
  • Leaving the classroom during class hours or detention without permission
  • Habitual tardiness or absence
  • Bullying
  • Committing any other serious offense

Louisiana High School Disciplinary Codes

Louisiana high schools, though, do more than follow the state's statutory grounds for suspension and expulsion. Louisiana high schools also adopt their own student codes of conduct under which they punish not only the above behaviors but also other forms of misconduct. For example, the Orleans Parish School Board's Student Code of Conduct divides student violations into non-suspendable events, suspendable events, and expellable events. Suspendable and expellable events for New Orleans high schools are as follows:

Suspendable Misconduct

  • Intentionally or habitually failing to attend detention or in-school suspension
  • Possessing or using tobacco or possession of a lighter
  • Using or possessing alcohol
  • Leaving a school bus without permission
  • Using objects dangerously or inappropriately to harm others or damage property
  • Vandalism to school property or school bus
  • Leaving school or classroom without permission
  • Gambling
  • Extortion (blackmail)
  • Willful disobedience to authority figures substantially interfering with the learning of others or threatening the safety of others
  • Using profanity or obscene language
  • Instigating or participating in fights
  • Bullying
  • Causing a false fire alarm
  • Intentionally causing a major, unnecessary disturbance at school
  • Improper use of a cell phone or electronic device
  • Inappropriate bodily contact or harassment
  • Improper use of a computer, including viewing obscene, pornographic, violent, or sexually harassing material or information on the manufacturing of weapons
  • Forging a signature on documentation required by the school, cheating, or lying to school personnel about academic matters

Expellable Misconduct

  • Distributing, selling, giving, or loaning any controlled dangerous substance or prescription drug
  • Carrying, possessing, or using a firearm, knife with a blade of two inches or longer, or any other instrument the purpose of which is lethal force
  • Sexual assault and other sexual acts where one party is nonconsenting
  • Intentional battery or assault on any individual using a weapon or which causes serious, documentable injury that necessitates medical care
  • Engaging in a student-initiated intentional physical altercation with a member of the school staff
  • Assault or threat with a weapon

Louisiana School Disciplinary Placement Criticism

Public reports have criticized the frequency of Louisiana high school suspensions under student conduct codes like the one summarized above. If you feel like your student's high school may be forcing your student out, then you already recognize the problem. Nola.com, for instance, ran a story calling statewide Louisiana suspension and expulsion rates excessive. That rate has been twice the national average. Louisiana suspends around 80,000 students a year, according to the story. Education advocates cited in the Nola.com story say that school removals into alternative disciplinary placements are ineffective tools for improving student behavior and graduation rates. One New Orleans special school district suspends about one in four students, according to the story's cited report, which is four times the national average. The cited report calls Louisiana alternative schools a dumping ground for students unfairly pushed out of traditional schools. The story and report do not paint a pretty picture. They instead reinforce that you do not want your student forced from your student's traditional high school and into an alternative disciplinary placement.

Louisiana Alternative Education Programs

The Louisiana Department of Education lists dozens of alternative education sites. Some of the sites include in their name a positive term, like Livingston Parish's Pathways Success Center and Lafourche Parish's several Positive Action School Sites. Other sites include a term indicating some form of troubled past, like Morehouse Parish's Fresh Start Alternative School Program, East Baton Rouge Parish's Discipline Center, and Lincoln Parish's Youth Rescue Center. Other sites emphasize academics, like Plaquemines Parish's Learning Center or Ouachita Parish's Academy of Learning. Many of the sites simply include the word alternative in their name. Name alone does not always distinguish an alternative school. In the end, the alternative school's name and even its special commitments may be much less important to a banished student's success than the initial fact of the student's discipline and removal. Louisiana alternative education programs surely have individual success stories. They just as surely try hard to do their part. Even so, alternative education is very likely not your student's first or better choice.

Louisiana High School Disciplinary Procedures

Constitutional due process treats public school enrollment as a substantial enough liberty and property interest to require public schools to provide due process before suspending or expelling a student long-term. Accordingly, Louisiana Code Section 17:416 guarantees basic due process for any student facing out-of-school suspension or expulsion. Under the Louisiana statute, the school principal must advise the accused student of the particular misconduct and the factual basis for the charge. The school must then give the accused student an opportunity to explain the student's version to the school principal. The school principal must also contact the accused student's parent or guardian, giving notice of the suspension or expulsion, the reasons for it, and a date and time for a conference with the principal for readmitting the student. The parent or guardian must generally attend the conference for the student to gain readmission. In sum, your student should have a fair chance to tell your student's side of the story, and you should have a fair chance to advocate for your student's readmission. Retaining national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento ensures that you and your student exercise these procedural rights effectively to preserve the traditional high school enrollment. Education research and a national consensus hold that school suspensions tend to do more harm than good. Help your student avoid that harm.

Example Louisiana High School Disciplinary Procedures

High schools across Louisiana adopt disciplinary procedures that generally satisfy the state's due process requirements. For example, the Orleans Parish School Board's Student Code of Conduct mimics the above state due process requirements. In Orleans Parish high schools, your student will get to tell your student's side of the event to the school principal before suspension, and you will have your opportunity to advocate in a conference with the principal for your student's readmission. Even if a school board does not include the above state disciplinary procedures in its policy, as is the case for many local high schools, you may still require the school to follow the mandated state requirements. Your student should enjoy reasonable protective procedures, provided you put those procedures to good use with the right skilled and experienced attorney advisor representation.

Louisiana High School Disciplinary Representation

Qualified representation is indeed the key to winning in Louisiana high school disciplinary procedures. High school disciplinary officials may fulfill their legal duty to tell you about disciplinary procedures and even offer you those procedures. But they may not follow them unless you act affirmatively to enforce your student's procedural rights. Procedures do not execute themselves. You must generally invoke procedures, such as request and attend the parent-principal conference. If you fail to do so, the school will likely construe your failure as a refusal to participate and as an agreement with the charges and proposed discipline. You can easily lose your student's case if you do not participate effectively. But you also don't necessarily know the law, rules, and procedures. Skilled and experienced academic administrative attorney advisors know the law, rules, and procedures. Retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for your student's winning defense. Get the representation your student needs to avoid disciplinary placement.

Resolving Louisiana Disciplinary Proceedings Informally

At the same time that you, your student, and your retained attorney advisor pursue the high school's protective procedures, your retained attorney advisor should also be communicating and negotiating with school disciplinary officials for a prompt and favorable resolution. National school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento's successful representation of hundreds of students nationwide, has taught him the firm, sensitive, and diplomatic negotiating skills necessary to preserve your student's traditional high school education. Often, what the school disciplinary officials need is an organized and documented presentation of the grounds excusing your student from the charged misconduct. Attorney advisor Lento also knows the counseling, tutoring, mentoring, and other assurances of support and services that school officials may need to accept your student's school reinstatement. Attorney advisor Lento also knows the creative options for resolution that inexperienced and unqualified local criminal defense attorneys would generally miss. Retain attorney advisor Lento to negotiate your student's reinstatement and dismissal of all charges. Sometimes, what's needed is just the right professional with the right approach, right strategy, and right touch.

Appealing Louisiana High School Discipline

When you and your student are unable to obtain relief and reinstatement after hearings and conferences, and the school principal insists on a suspension and alternative education placement, you should have an appeal right. Louisiana Code Section 17:416 provides a concerned parent or guardian with the right to appeal out-of-school suspensions: “Any parent or legal guardian of a student suspended shall have the right to appeal to the local superintendent of schools or his designee, who shall conduct a hearing on the merits.” In Louisiana, an appeal is often your first substantial opportunity for a thorough hearing before an unbiased decision maker. The initial conference may have been brief and may not have involved your presentation of any witnesses or other evidence. The appeal hearing on the merits should give you and your student that full opportunity. The same statute gives the superintendent “the right to remit any portion of the time of the out-of-school suspension.” The Orleans Parish School Board's Student Code of Conduct confirms that right of appeal provided the parent makes the appeal within five days. In short, a winning appeal can compel the superintendent to set things right.

Louisiana Alternative Special Relief

Yes, Louisiana law and local school policies provide you and your student with the procedures, including hearings, conferences, and appeals, through which to effectively fight disciplinary charges and alternative education placement. But not every fight is a winning fight. Yet don't give up until you have exhausted every possible avenue. Retain national school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento to reach out to the district's general counsel, outside retained counsel, ombudsman, or other oversight official. Attorney advisor Lento has successfully gained reinstatement for many students through these oversight channels, even after the student had lost all prior proceedings. Oversight officials have special authority to grant relief to ensure that the school meets all laws, rules, and regulations. Oversight officials can be especially sensitive to regulatory and liability risks. Attorney advisor Lento has the national reputation and relationships that school oversight officials can trust to accept informal resolutions. Don't give up the fight. Retain attorney advisor Lento to seek special alternative relief even if your student has lost all other hope of preserving the traditional high school enrollment.

Risks of Louisiana Alternative Disciplinary Placement

Some parents and students may mistakenly assume that education is education, no matter how or where you get it. But education is much more subtle than simply acquiring a commodity. Education involves the student's whole development in the context of appropriate academic challenges surrounded by social support. Your student's mental, physical, and emotional health can be just as important to your student's education as the quality and rigor of the academic instruction. Alternative placement can disrupt and destroy those social supports, adversely affecting your student's health and outlook. Disciplinary placement can also close doors to your student's preferred colleges, universities, and vocational programs. Your student may have dreamed of obtaining a professional license or vocational certification that school discipline can place beyond reach. Disciplinary placement can have both severe short-term effects and long-term harms. Don't underestimate those potential harms. Instead, recognize that when your student faces Louisiana high school disciplinary charges, your student's future is on the line.

Your best move is to retain premier school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. Your student needs and deserves a winning defense for your student's Louisiana high school disciplinary matter. Help your student avoid damaging Louisiana alternative high school 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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