Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the Missouri High School System

Don't underestimate the risks your Missouri high school student faces from disciplinary charges. When your child faces a significant challenge, you want to know not only the best that can happen but also the worst that can happen. Disciplinary charges in high school don't only mean a figurative slap on the wrist. Disciplinary charges threaten a high school student's opportunity to remain in the school to complete the high school program. Disciplinary placement means that the high school has sent your student to what we used to call reform school but now more charitably call alternative education. The renaming doesn't matter. An alternative education school isn't where your student wants to go or should end up. If your Missouri high school student faces disciplinary charges, retain national high school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to help your student remain in the traditional high school.

Missouri Alternative Education Programs

Missouri law authorizes school districts to establish alternative education programs in various forms. These alternative education schools have slightly different goals and requirements because they each tend to serve different student populations. If your student faces disciplinary charges, know the alternative schools to which disciplinary officials may send your student. You were probably quite thoughtful about the school district and school you initially chose for your student. Don't let your student's chosen school choose a very different school that you would not choose. Learn what your student may be in for, and then do what you can about it. Retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to preserve your choice of your student's school.

Missouri Truant or Parental Schools

As their frightening name implies, Missouri truant schools are not an attractive option. Missouri Code 167.091 specifically authorizes what the state itself calls "truant or parental day schools." Under the statute, truant schools serve students who are "habitual truants from any school in which they are enrolled as pupils, or who, while in attendance at any school are incorrigible, vicious or immoral, or who habitually wander or loiter about the streets or roads or other public places without lawful employment, or who, in the opinion of the board or of its superintendent of instruction, require special attention and instruction." Missouri Code 167.091 is perfectly clear that school officials may force your student to attend a truant school: "The school board, through its officers, may assign, require and compel all such children to attend the special truant or parental school or any department of the graded schools that the board directs." If your student's high school sends your student to a truant school, your student may have to attend.

Missouri Alternative Education Programs

Missouri Code 167.164 requires high schools that suspend or expel their students to continue to provide out-of-school educational services to those students, stating that suspension or expulsion "shall not relieve the state or the suspended student's parents or guardians of their responsibilities to educate the student." To enable schools to satisfy that statutory requirement, the same statutory section authorizes schools to contract with other entities for alternative education services: "A school district may contract with other political subdivisions, public agencies, not-for-profit organizations, or private agencies for the provision of alternative education services for students whose demonstrated disruptive behavior indicates that they cannot be adequately served in the traditional classroom setting." Another statute, Missouri Code 167.335, offers school districts grants to fund those alternative education programs collaborating with "cooperative education programs, school to work programs, parents-as-teachers programs, programs developed by the department of economic development and programs developed by local service delivery agencies, and other governmental and private agencies to address student needs beyond those traditionally addressed by schools." Your student may have one or more of these alternative options. But don't confuse these alternative options with a traditional high school.

Missouri Option Program

Missouri also offers the Missouri Option Program but only for students who have reached the age of seventeen. The Missouri Option Program is a high school equivalency program, not a true high school experience, even like an alternative high school. No matter the form or location of the Missouri alternative education program available to your student, your student's traditional high school placement is very likely the better 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 traditional school placement, whether at a public or private high school. Your student's future is worth the investment.

Missouri School Discipline Problems

Disciplinary placement in an alternative education program would be bad enough alone, for the enormous adjustments that it requires a removed student to make. But school discipline in Missouri has other problems, according to public interest advocates. One such advocate gives Missouri's school discipline system a frankly failing grade, calling the system a pipeline of injustice from school to prison. The report asserts that Missouri school suspensions have "long-term effects including time out of class, falling behind on homework and damaged self-worth. It puts far too many young people on a path that feeds directly into the school-to-prison pipeline." Statewide data also suggests an alarming racial disparity in suspensions, expulsions, and disciplinary placements in alternative education. A perfect discipline system would still duly frighten a falsely charged student and deeply concern the student's parents. But the Missouri discipline system is far from perfect.

Harm from Disciplinary Placement

The problem with alternative education schools isn't just that they differ from traditional schools, requiring removed students to make huge adjustments. The deeper problem, as a prominent nonprofit research organization asserts, is that disciplinary placements in alternative education programs can do more harm than good. Surprisingly, the organization's research study found that around four out of five students sent to alternative schools did not commit serious school offenses but instead were only involved in minor offenses like talking back to teachers. The vast majority of disciplinary removals to alternative education were for student code of conduct violations, not violence or weapons or drugs in the school. And more than half of the disciplinary removals were discretionary rather than mandatory. The school could have kept the removed student in the traditional program. The research study also found that students in alternative disciplinary education lose on average over one month of instructional days, face an increased likelihood of in-grade retention, and are more likely to end up in the justice system. The study concluded that disciplinary placements in alternative education are hazardous at best and harmful on average. Don't let your student become one of those unfortunate statistics. Instead, retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for your student's best defense against disciplinary placement in alternative education.

Grounds for Missouri Disciplinary Placements

If your student faces disciplinary charges at a Missouri high school, chances are that the school has brought those charges under its disciplinary code. Missouri Code 160.261 requires local school boards to publish disciplinary policies listing school offenses and their punishments. Your student's high school principal and other school officials have the state's authority to suspend or expel your student and send your student to alternative education if the school proves one of those grounds for disciplinary placement. Under Missouri Code 160.261, the school district may define disruptive behaviors which are subject to discipline. But under the statute, the school's student code of conduct must include as misconduct any acts of violence or violent behavior against another student, teacher, or another school employee. Acts of violence include not only ordinary assaults but also sexual assault, sexual harassment, harassment of other kinds, stalking, weapons possession, drug distribution, arson, and property damage. Prohibited weapons include blackjacks, concealable firearms, explosives, firearm silencers, gas guns, knives, knuckles, projectile weapons, rifles, shotguns, spring guns, and switchblades. Allegations, true or false, involving any of these misbehaviors can lead to disciplinary charges against your Missouri high school student and the threat of disciplinary placement in alternative education. If your student faces disciplinary charges, your student needs aggressive and effective representation from national high school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. Treat these charges most seriously.

Example Missouri Student Codes of Conduct

The student codes of conduct that Missouri law requires districts to adopt typically define many more misbehaviors than those that the laws strictly require. Your Missouri high school student could face disciplinary placement in alternative education not just for the above statutory misconduct but also for lesser forms of misconduct. The Student Code of Conduct for the Kansas City Public Schools provides a good example. That code, like similar codes in districts across Missouri, prohibits all the above statutory forms of student misconduct. It also provides mandatory discipline for weapons possession. Yet the Kansas City Public Schools Student Code of Conduct also prohibits these lesser forms of misconduct, the violation of which could result in disciplinary charges:

  • plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic misconduct;
  • unauthorized collaboration or sharing of assignments;
  • falsifying school records and documents;
  • unauthorized buying and selling of personal items on school grounds;
  • dress code violations;
  • common areas and cafeteria loitering;
  • unauthorized use of cell phones and other electronic devices;
  • disrespectful and disruptive classroom behaviors;
  • food in the classroom or food deliveries from off site;
  • physical displays of affection on school grounds;
  • unauthorized computer or network access;
  • unauthorized audio or video recording of classes;
  • misuse of social media including cyberbullying;
  • chronic absences or tardiness;
  • possession of tobacco products on school grounds;
  • possession or distribution of obscene or pornographic materials;
  • gambling;
  • abusive, offensive, obscene, or profane language;
  • forgery or false identification;
  • stealing or extortion of another's property and receiving stolen property;
  • vandalism;
  • sexting or possession of sexually explicit, vulgar, or violent material;
  • trespass or unauthorized entry on school property; and
  • false fire alarms or damage to fire equipment.

Missouri High School Disciplinary Placement Procedures

If your student faces long-term suspension or expulsion and disciplinary placement in alternative education due to disciplinary charges, the high school must provide your student with due process. Due-process protections enable your student to contest false, unfair, or unsupported charges. Missouri high schools typically publish their disciplinary procedures in their student code of conduct. The Student Code of Conduct for the Kansas City Public Schools is a good example, requiring that the school notify the student of the charge, describe the evidence against the student, allow the student an opportunity to present the student's side of the story, and give the student written reasons for suspension or expulsion requiring disciplinary placement. Under the Kansas City Public Schools code, only the district superintendent may impose a long-term suspension, and only the district school board may expel the student. The St. Louis Public Schools' Student Code of Conduct includes similar protective procedures for any action, such as long-term suspension or expulsion, that requires disciplinary placement in alternative education.

Attorney Role in Missouri Disciplinary Placement Hearings

While schools must promise due process to a student facing disciplinary placement, school officials tend to discourage the student and parent from fully availing themselves of the protection of those procedures. Hearing procedures take time, thought, and effort, all things that school officials would rather spend elsewhere. School disciplinary officials may assure the charged student and the student's parents of fair treatment, when the student and parent cannot know an outcome's fairness without first having had due process. The charged student and the student's parents must usually affirmatively invoke and insist on protective procedures, or the school simply may not provide them. Invoking administrative procedures effectively and strategically requires a skilled and experienced school discipline defense attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team have the inside knowledge, refined skills, and substantial experience for aggressive and effective defense of disciplinary placement proceedings. Trust attorney Lento to take each of these strategic actions for your Missouri high school student's best disciplinary outcome:

  • review and evaluate the sufficiency of the school's charges;
  • discover and evaluate the school's supporting evidence;
  • timely answer the school's charges with appropriate denials;
  • discern, present, and advocate for early informal resolution options;
  • timely invoke the school's due process hearing procedures;
  • research, interpret, and apply Missouri school law;
  • identify, gather, organize, and present exonerating and mitigating evidence;
  • communicate and negotiate with school officials for prompt dismissal;
  • identify and prepare witnesses to testify to helpful information;
  • prepare cross-examination questions for adverse witnesses;
  • evaluate and appeal any adverse decisions; and
  • communicate and negotiate with school oversight officials for special relief.

Appeals from Missouri Disciplinary Placement

Missouri high schools routinely offer appeals from any adverse decisions to suspend or expel a student and send the student to alternative education. An appeal is a procedure that gives the student a second chance before a different decision maker. That appeal decision maker is often a districtwide superintendent if the school principal made the initial decision to suspend or expel, or the district board if the superintendent or designee suspended or expelled the student. For good examples, both the Student Code of Conduct for the Kansas City Public Schools and the St. Louis Public Schools' Student Code of Conduct provide for an appeal of a disciplinary placement. Appeal procedures, though, can differ. The St. Louis Public Schools, for instance, offer only a written appeal of a disciplinary placement to an Office of Family and Community Engagement. In contrast, the Kansas City Public Schools offer a full hearing before the district school board. Don't let an initial adverse decision derail your Missouri high school student's education and future. Retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for your student's appeal of disciplinary placement.

Attorney Role in Missouri Disciplinary Placement Appeals

Don't attempt your student's disciplinary placement appeal on your own. Your student's school appeal procedures may invite a mere letter to the appeal officials. But a simple letter won't do. Written submissions must instead generally point to the specific errors or absence of supporting facts in the underlying hearing record. Winning appeals require analyzing the hearing record against the applicable law and disciplinary charges. Winning appeals also require compelling advocacy. Appeal officials tend to know, trust, and respect the school officials who imposed the initial discipline. Winning appeals must overcome that presumption that the initial decision was sound, instead proving the decision to be erroneous, due to bias, conflicts of interest, or other irregularities. A winning appeal must also show the appeal decision makers that restoring your student's opportunity to attend the traditional high school is in everyone's best interest. National school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has the skills your student needs for a winning appeal.

Alternative Special Relief

Students suffering disciplinary placement, and their concerned parents, generally assume that the initial hearing and a following appeal exhaust the student's available remedies. A school district's published disciplinary procedures will not usually suggest any other available relief. But national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has, through having successfully defended hundreds of students nationwide, developed a national network of relationships with school attorneys and other oversight officials. Attorney Lento's success has also earned him a national reputation. Attorney Lento has often been able to negotiate alternative special relief through school general counsel offices, outside retained counsel, and other oversight channels. Oversight officials have the school's authority to reverse a disciplinary placement so as to avoid litigation, regulatory violations, and public embarrassment. If your student's disciplinary placement was unfair, unnecessary, unsupported, and not in the best interest of everyone involved, trust attorney Lento to make that showing to oversight officials. Your student may yet gain reinstatement to the traditional high school through these alternative avenues.

The Worth of School Discipline Defense

School disciplinary charges may tempt parents to retain a local criminal defense attorney whom they know or whom others recommend. But local criminal defense attorneys generally lack the peculiar academic administrative knowledge, skills, and experience necessary for a winning school discipline defense. Criminal charges and court actions differ from high school disciplinary proceedings. What works to defend a criminal case will not work in high school disciplinary defense. Instead, retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team. Consider all that your student has at stake. It isn't just your student's ability to complete a high school program. Your student's opportunities, reputation, and relationships are also at stake. High school students grow through teacher and student peer relationships. They also grow through a traditional high school's rich curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities. Again, it isn't just attending senior prom and graduation, although those once-in-a-lifetime things can be important. Your student's college, university, graduate school, vocational, and career opportunities are also at stake. Under Missouri Code 160.261, discipline records follow the student from school to school. Your student won't be able to hide the fact of a disciplinary placement, not from other high schools, colleges or universities, or even vocational or professional licensing bodies and employers. Don't shortchange your student's ambitions and risk your student's future. Aggressive and effective school discipline defense is worth it for your student's future.

Missouri High School Discipline Defense Attorney

National school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team represent students nationwide in all kinds of disciplinary proceedings. The nature of the alleged misconduct and location of your student's Missouri high school do not matter. Attorney Lento is available for your Missouri high school student's winning disciplinary defense. You can trust attorney Lento for your student's best high school disciplinary defense because attorney Lento has successfully defended hundreds of students nationwide. Attorney Lento has not only the special knowledge, skills, and experience, but also the national reputation and network for a winning defense. Your student's future is worth retaining the best available school discipline defense attorney. 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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