Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the Maryland High School System

For a Maryland high school student, disciplinary placement in an alternative education program can seem like a complete fail. High school students generally highly value and depend on their social relationships and activities. Those relationships and activities generally center on the high school. Forced removal from the school is about as embarrassing and disruptive of a change as one could imagine for the high school student. But that's exactly what disciplinary placement in alternative education means. The Maryland high school student who suffers long-term suspension or expulsion cannot return to the traditional high school property and must instead attend an alternative school. Alternative schools may advertise as if they are each outstanding programs. But statistics and stories say otherwise. Alternative education is a dead end for far too many students. Don't let false, unfair, or unsupported disciplinary charges force your Maryland high school into an alternative education program. Retain national high school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to preserve your student's enrollment in your student's traditional high school.

Authority for Maryland Alternative Education Programs

Maryland education laws imply the right and responsibility of local school districts to establish alternative education schools to which to remove disruptive students. Maryland Code of Reg. 13a.08.01.11F. provides that each local board must continue to provide suspended or expelled students with minimum education services. School districts may do so either by sending the removed student to an alternative education site that the school district maintains or by sending schoolwork home while requiring the in-school teacher to correct it and the school to assign a home liaison. Maryland Education Section 7-305.1 also authorizes the state's Board of Education to establish juvenile services alternative education schools in partnership with private agencies. These juvenile services schools provide secure detention facilities for the smaller number of removed students who suffer juvenile adjudications. Alternative education schools are a real thing in Maryland, as in other states. Your student's high school disciplinary officials very likely have clear options within the school district to remove your student for disciplinary placement in an alternative education program. Maryland state law favors and funds alternative education programs.

Example Maryland Alternative Education Schools

Maryland education laws allow local school districts substantial flexibility in designing their alternative education programs. Howard County's Public School System provides a good example of how local districts provide for alternative education for students suffering disciplinary placement. Howard County's core alternative education program is its Gateway Program at the Homewood Center. Howard County's Gateway Program offers intensive services to small numbers of removed students with serious academic and behavioral issues. Howard County separately offers Saturday School, Evening School, Teen Parenting Childcare, and Outreach alternative education programs for pregnant and parenting students, employed students, and other students with life issues interfering with their ability to attend traditional high school. For another example, Montgomery County Public Schools offers similar alternative education programs through its Blair G. Ewing centers in Rockville, Germantown, and Silver Springs. While these alternative programs doubtless have committed staff and administrations, your student is very likely far better off remaining in your student's traditional high school program. Retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento if your Maryland high school student faces disciplinary placement. Preserve your student's traditional public or private high school placement.

Harm from Maryland Disciplinary Placement

Maryland school discipline creates its own problems. An advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that Maryland disciplinary removals remain high despite efforts to lower them. Maryland schools also reflect implicit bias in racially disproportionate school discipline rates, including especially in imposing exclusionary suspensions and expulsions. Maryland alternative education programs, like programs in other states, also tend not to provide the promised and needed educational support services, especially to students with mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. Thus, the problems with a disciplinary placement in Maryland alternative education isn't just the wholesale disruption of the student's relationships and resources, and the harm to the student's reputation. Critics of alternative education continue to assert that alternative education harms its students. As one advocacy organization asserts, students get banished to alternative education rather than choosing it. Don't let your student suffer banishment to a desultory or even harmful alternative education site. Instead, retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to preserve your student's traditional Maryland high school program.

Legal Grounds for Maryland Disciplinary Placements

Maryland law mostly defers to local school boards to establish the grounds on which Maryland high schools may discipline students, removing them to alternative education programs. Maryland Code of Reg. 13a.08.01.11 provides that each local district must adopt safe-school policies to maintain the order, safety, and discipline necessary for effective learning. Those policies must “describe the conduct that may lead to in-school and out-of-school suspension or expulsion,” “allow for discretion in imposing discipline,” and “address the ways the educational and counseling needs of suspended students will be met,” and reserve long-term suspensions or expulsions as last-resort options. But Maryland law does mandate removal for some student behaviors, particularly weapons possession. Maryland Code of Reg. 13a.08.01.12-1 requires a high school to expel a student who knowingly possesses a weapon on school property for at least one year. The regulation permits the school to send the weapons-possessing student to an alternative education program. Weapons include a firearm, knife, or deadly weapon of any other kind. If your student faces disciplinary charges alleging weapons or other dangerous grounds, your student needs especially aggressive and effective representation. Retain national high school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for your student's best outcome on serious disciplinary charges.

Discretionary Maryland Disciplinary Placement

In most cases, Maryland high schools will rely on their district-wide student code of conduct to charge students with misconduct and seek to remove them to alternative schools. Typical Maryland high school student codes of conduct give broad latitude to school disciplinary officials to remove students for a wide range of misconduct. Maryland school disciplinary officials, like officials in other states, have surprisingly broad discretion to punish and banish students. It's not just gun and drug charges that may result in removal. Your student may face removal for relatively minor misconduct or an accumulation of small matters. The Baltimore Public Schools Code of Conduct and Montgomery County Public Schools Student Code of Conduct are good examples, each prohibiting and punishing these many different forms of student conduct:

  • excessive unexcused absences, truancy, or tardiness;
  • cheating, plagiarizing, and other forms of academic dishonesty;
  • possessing, distributing, or attending under the influence of alcohol;
  • possessing, distributing, or attending under the influence of drugs;
  • possessing tobacco products on school premises;
  • possessing weapons on school premises;
  • physical attacks on other students in groups or singly;
  • bomb threats or threats of mass violence;
  • bullying, cyberbullying, and gang intimidation;
  • disrupting classes or other school activities;
  • insubordination or defiance toward school authorities;
  • insults, offensive gestures, or other disrespect toward others;
  • dress code violations;
  • extortion, theft, or robbery;
  • false activation of fire alarms or damage to fire equipment;
  • fighting and horseplay;
  • arson or other attempts to set fires;
  • rioting or inciting disturbances;
  • harassment and sexual harassment;
  • physical contact with or intimidation of school personnel;
  • misuse of cell phones or other portable electronic devices;
  • graffiti, vandalism, or other property damage;
  • trespass and misuse of school premises or property; and
  • sexual assault or sexual contact.

Maryland Department of Education statistics show that Maryland schools suspend or expel around 67,000 students annually. About half of those removals are for fights, attacks, or threats, while more than one-third of the removals are for disruption or disrespect. Dangerous substance offenses, weapons offenses, and sexual misconduct represent much smaller percentages of the total offenses. A simple fight or a misunderstanding that your student's teacher or principal misconstrues as disruption or disrespect are the most likely causes of disciplinary removal from the school. Be aware of the risks of sudden and unexpected disciplinary charges threatening disciplinary placement in alternative education. It's a real risk.

Expulsion and Disciplinary Placement as a Last Resort

Maryland high school codes of conduct give many grounds for discipline, subjecting your student to a substantial risk of running afoul of one or more of those many provisions. Recall, though, that Maryland Code of Reg. 13a.08.01.11 requires school disciplinary officials to use expulsion and disciplinary placement only as a last resort. Under that regulation, school disciplinary officials may only expel when the student has engaged “in chronic and extreme disruption of the educational process that has created a substantial barrier to learning for other students across the school day, and other available and appropriate behavioral and disciplinary interventions have been exhausted.” Those restrictions mean that school disciplinary officials must consider other remedial avenues and prove them all unavailing before expelling your student from school for disciplinary placement in alternative education. Maryland's laudable last-resort limitations give your student's retained school discipline defense attorney the footing to argue convincingly in many cases that disciplinary placement is simply not lawful. The best defense to disciplinary placement can be that removal and alternative education are just not necessary. Your student's retained school discipline defense attorney may well be able to show that your student has the capacity, aptitude, and attitude to resume complying with the high school's code of conduct, without threat to any student or disruption of the school's educational program.

Maryland Disciplinary Placement Procedures

Maryland law guarantees due process of law to students facing disciplinary removal and alternative education placement. Due process permits the student's retained school discipline defense attorney to help the student build and present a winning defense to the disciplinary charges. Maryland Code of Reg. 13a.08.01.11(4) requires the school principal to present a written request for long-term suspension or expulsion to the district superintendent who must thoroughly investigate. If investigation shows grounds to suspend or expel, the superintendent must call the student and parents into a conference to hear their side of the story. If the superintendent decides to go ahead with the suspension or expulsion and disciplinary placement in alternative education, then the student and parents may appeal to the district board for a formal hearing. Significantly, the statute permits the student and parents to retain a school discipline defense attorney to attend the appeal hearing with the student's witnesses. These procedures can, when a skilled and experienced school discipline defense attorney strategically invokes them, lead to the disproving of false, unfair, unsupported, and unnecessary disciplinary charges.

Example Maryland High School Disciplinary Procedures

Maryland high schools must follow the above state-mandated due process procedures. The Baltimore Public Schools Code of Conduct provides a good example. Baltimore's Office of Suspension Services must provide the high school student facing disciplinary placement with a copy of the investigation report supporting the charges. The student and parents may then proceed to a discipline conference at the district's Office of Student Conduct. That office then makes an initial discipline decision. The accused student may appeal an adverse decision to the district's board, presumably with the protective procedures that the above state statutes require. Montgomery County Public Schools' Student Code of Conduct refers to similar state-mandated protective procedures.

Maryland School Discipline Defense Attorney Services

What, exactly, does a skilled and experienced school discipline defense attorney do to effectively defend and defeat unwarranted disciplinary charges? When a Maryland high school student and the student's concerned parents retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to defend the student against disciplinary placement in an alternative school, attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team may take each of the following strategic actions for a winning defense:

  • receive, review, and evaluate the school's notice of charges against the applicable Maryland law and high school code of conduct to challenge the sufficiency of the charges;
  • promptly answer the school's charges, denying false and exaggerated allegations and raising the student's affirmative defenses while supplying exonerating and mitigating evidence;
  • discover and obtain the school's evidence allegedly supporting the charges, analyze that evidence to show its insufficiency and lack of credibility, and seek early dismissal of unsupported charges;
  • communicate and negotiate with school disciplinary officials advocating for early dismissal of charges in the interest of all concerned and to avoid embarrassment, expense, and disruption;
  • attend any resolution conferences the school allows to propose and advocate for creative win-win resolutions;
  • invoke formal hearing procedures and attend and advocate at the hearing, including presenting witnesses and documents as exonerating and mitigating evidence while preparing cross-examination questions for the school's witnesses;
  • review, evaluate, and appeal any adverse decision, including obtaining and reviewing the hearing record, researching the appeal brief, and drafting and filing the brief while attending any permitted appeal arguments; and
  • contacting school oversight officials to propose and advocate for alternative special relief to preserve the student's traditional high school placement.

Appeals from Maryland Disciplinary Placement

Appeals of disciplinary placement play an outside role in Maryland disciplinary proceedings. Many states require the school principal or district superintendent to conduct a formal hearing when making the initial discipline decision, reserving appeals to written statements pointing to errors in that initial decision. But Maryland Code of Reg. 13a.08.01.11(4) instead requires the initial decision maker only to conduct an informal conference. In Maryland, the accused student's first opportunity for a formal hearing to present defense witnesses with the help of a retained school discipline defense attorney occurs at the appeal stage before the district board. Thus, don't despair and give up if your student lost the initial decision at the school level. Your student hadn't yet had the full hearing. Instead, promptly retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to conduct your student's winning appeal before the district school board. Your student's education and future are worth it.

Attorney's Role in Maryland Disciplinary Placement Appeals

Just as your student's retained school discipline defense attorney plays a critical role in contesting the disciplinary charges at the first level, the defense attorney also plays a critical role in a disciplinary appeal. Ordinarily, an appeal involves obtaining the underlying hearing record, analyzing that record for error, and writing an effective appeal brief compelling the appeal decision maker to reverse the disciplinary placement. But in Maryland, with the first full hearing at the appeal level, the school discipline defense attorney has an even more important role. That role includes several of the above steps like identifying, preparing, and calling witnesses to the hearing, preparing cross-examination questions for adverse witnesses, and otherwise organizing and conducting the written and oral appeal presentations. These skills are not ones that a concerned parent of an accused student generally possesses. These skills are also not ones that a local criminal defense attorney generally possesses. Don't leave your student's appeal in unqualified hands. Instead, retain attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to conduct your student's appeal of Maryland disciplinary placement.

Alternative Special Relief

National school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has another special skill to offer Maryland students facing disciplinary placement in alternative education. Don't give up or give in even if you and your student have exhausted all hearings and appeals. Attorney Lento has earned a national reputation and developed a national network of relationships with school attorneys and oversight officials, from having successfully represented hundreds of students in school discipline defense. When attorney Lento shows up on your student's behalf, school general counsel, outside retained attorneys, and other risk management and oversight officials tend to take notice. Attorney Lento is often able to provide those oversight officials with information, analysis, and win-win proposals that give those officials the ground and cause to reverse the unfortunate, unwise, and unnecessary disciplinary placement. Negotiations over alternative special relief depend on a firm but sensitive presentation of the litigation, compliance, public-relations, and other risks schools face when imposing inappropriate discipline. Attorney Lento has those skills and network contacts to win that alternative special relief and reinstatement to the traditional high school program in many cases.

School Discipline Defense As Worthy Investment

National school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento's premier services are worth the investment in your student's education and future. Parents whose student faces disciplinary placement may tend to look primarily at the student's immediate need for help. The tendency may be to reach out to a local criminal defense attorney whom the family or a friend knows well. That local criminal defense attorney may offer a standard criminal defense fee and standard criminal defense services. But high school disciplinary charges aren't criminal charges. And schools don't decide those charges in courts where criminal defense attorneys practice. Your student's future is on the line when your student faces disciplinary placement. Disciplinary placement can mean loss of college, university, graduate school, professional school, vocational or professional licensing, jobs, and careers. Disciplinary placement can also damage the student's self-confidence, character, and relationships, leading to mental and emotional issues, and loss of supportive relationships. High school is a tender time for student development. Don't let false, unfair, unwarranted, and unsupported disciplinary charges harm your Maryland high school student. Aggressive and effective representation from a skilled and experienced school discipline defense attorney is worth it.

Maryland High School Discipline Defense Available

National school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team have successfully defended students nationwide against all kinds of misconduct charges. Attorney Lento and his team are available across Maryland. Your student's school location or disciplinary charges do not matter to the availability of attorney Lento for your student's winning defense. Attorney Lento and his team have successfully defended misconduct charges of all kinds, from fights and vandalism to drug or alcohol possession, weapons possession, excessive absences, academic misconduct, and sexual misconduct. Your best move as a concerned and responsible parent is to entrust your Maryland high school student's defense to attorney Lento. Attorney Lento's successful representation of hundreds of students nationwide proves the value and worth of his services. Trust attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team with your student's high school disciplinary placement defense. 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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