As a parent, you have immense hope for the opportunities for your high school student children. Whether they may take a path to become a business owner, doctor, engineer, lawyer, or teacher, each journey starts by fulfilling the requirements to obtain a high school diploma. These formative years are packed with instruction and experience-based learning, yet the transition from adolescence into adulthood can present obstacles students must overcome. Unfortunately, honest, hard-working students get caught in challenging situations. School infractions that once merited a phone call home from the guidance counselor or principal are increasingly common grounds for removal from the school altogether in institutions governed by zero-tolerance disciplinary policies.
Sometimes, school administration officials unfairly blame students for misconduct, thus categorizing your child alongside perennial delinquents. Mischaracterizations like this leave your student child subject to unjust consequences that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
You don't want a misunderstanding to jeopardize your child's future academic career, but it happens in Nevada school districts. Considering the vast repercussions, it's imperative that you know how schools handle misconduct and how it can negatively affect your child.
Avoiding District Restorative Discipline Plans in Nevada
When your child is accused of misbehavior or misconduct at their Nevada high school, reprimands can be as minimal as extra class assignments or as serious as expulsion. Sanctions should be levied in proportion to the severity of the alleged misconduct, but that doesn't always happen. School boards have an obligation to protect the institution's reputation, and your child can get caught in the middle.
One option Nevada school districts have for students with recurring infractions is to send them to institute a District Restorative Discipline Plan (DRDP), formerly known as a Site Progressive Discipline Plan (SPDP). While this is an ostensibly holistic solution to help misbehaved students improve their standing in high school, the problem is that Nevada DRDPs can brand your child a delinquent, opening the door to unfair treatment down the line.
DRDPs indeed help as remediation for some students, but many react poorly to the unconventional environment, causing unnecessary damage to your child. Moreover, individual Nevada DRDPs may have their own problems, including an outdated curriculum, substandard instruction, and a lack of quality support services.
If your child faces a Nevada high school disciplinary proceeding, the risk of them being relegated to a DRDP is real. To help you navigate the Nevada high school disciplinary system and keep your child out of a restorative discipline plan as a punishment, call student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm. They have built their premier experience on successfully defending high school students in Nevada and across the country.
Student Codes of Conduct for School Discipline in Nevada
Nevada high schools don't discipline as they see fit. Each school must create a code of conduct to oversee student behavior at the behest of the State of Nevada Department of Education (NVDOE), following the state legislature's regulations.
The code of conduct—also known as a student handbook or honor code—at your child's school is your foundation of defense against unjust school discipline. Your student defense advisor will review the particular school or district's rules to ensure they adhere to their own parameters and don't impose excessive sanctions. The code of conduct will specify prohibited conduct for students and the corresponding consequences. Although each school and district may differ in its code of conduct, some common prohibited behaviors according to the NVDOE:
- Computer misuse
- Drug, alcohol, and tobacco use
- Student or teacher assault
- Title IX offenses
- Weapons at school
In addition to types of misconduct, the code of conduct will list the sanctions for students who commit these behaviors. Typically, consequences include:
- Loss of privileges: Students lose school privileges or are removed from participation in extracurricular activities.
- Behavioral counseling: The establishment of a line of communication between the student, their parents or guardians, and a school administration to discuss a remediation course of action.
- Detention: Students must remain after school, show up before school, or on a Saturday to complete their schoolwork.
- Exclusion: Some Nevada school districts allow instructors to exclude a student from their classroom for misbehavior, and the student is reassigned to another teacher.
- Community service: Students must complete a set number of service work hours either in the school or community.
- In-school suspension (ISS): Students are removed from their regular classrooms and placed in an ISS classroom to complete assignments for up to five days.
- Out-of-school suspension (OSS): Students are barred from attending school for three or more consecutive days.
- Removal to a DRDP: Students are temporarily assigned to an alternative education setting.
- Expulsion: Students are banned from attending their regular school for a certain period of time. Depending on the student's age and the school district, expelled students are required to attend a DRDP.
Emergency Removals in Nevada Schools
Nevada schools are given the authority to conduct emergency removals of students in some instances. According to Nevada Revised Statues (NRS) 392.466, an emergency expulsion may be carried out on a student if they engage in the following:
- Battery on a school employee
- Becoming a "habitual disciplinary problem"
- Possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon
- Selling or distributing a controlled substance
Once a student has been removed, the school must provide a plan of action based on restorative justice to the parent or legal guardian of the student. When the student is expelled, even if temporarily, the student must:
- Be homeschooled
- Enroll in a private school
- Enroll in a program of independent study
- Continue their education in a DRDP
There are limits on suspensions and expulsions of this nature.
The board of trustees of a school district may not authorize the expulsion, suspension, or removal of any student from the public school system for truancy. Even if the student is declared a "habitual truant," a separation from studies is off the table, but they still may be remanded to a DRDP.
Students ten years old or younger may not be expelled. If a student is deemed a habitual disciplinary problem and the school has made a reasonable effort to complete a plan of action based on restorative justice for a student at least 11 years of age, they will be suspended for no longer than one school semester. Nevertheless, the school's principal has the deference to expel the student for longer under "extraordinary circumstances" on a case-by-case basis.
Hearing Process for Suspension and Expulsions in Nevada
NRS 384.067 states that if suspension or expulsion of a student is used as a punishment for a violation of the rules, a student has the right to a hearing to determine formal corrective actions or punishment. The student's parent or guardian will be provided:
- Notice of the student's violation of the school district's discipline policy
- An explanation of the evidence regarding the violation
- A description of the discipline that may be administered
- An opportunity for the student to testify and provide an explanation regarding the violation
Nevada school districts may have a slightly varying process for their hearings to determine a suspension, expulsion, or other removals from the school, but most proceed similarly. For example, the Clark County School District (CCSD) will convene an Expulsion Hearing Panel, wherein parents may retain legal counsel but must notify the Panel at least three days before the hearing.
The Panel consists of a Hearing Officer, representative(s) of the referring school, representative(s) of the referred party, and three Panel members comprised of a secondary education administrator, teacher, and support staff employee. Students are also allowed up to three character witnesses to testify at the proceedings. The hearing will move forward as follows:
- The Hearing Officer will introduce all parties present and state the recommendation of the school.
- Representative(s) from the referring school will make an opening statement.
- The student or their representative(s) will make an opening statement.
- The Hearing Officer will allow the Panel members to ask questions.
- Both parties will be invited to make a closing statement.
- The Panel will deliberate after dismissing all parties and their representative(s).
The Panel has three days to render a decision. The Hearing Officer will contact all parties via telephone or mail with reasoning for one of the following conclusions:
- Limited expulsion
- Permanent expulsion
- Modified plan for school placement
Students may appeal the Panel's decision to the Board of School Trustees' Expulsion Review Board within 14 days after the receipt of the decision.
The Manifestation Determination Review in Nevada High Schools
When a school suspends a student for more than ten consecutive school days or ten total days in the same school year for discipline related to a pattern of misbehavior, the school administration must conduct a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR). The purpose of the MDR is to determine whether a student's disability caused the behavior that led to the suspension or if the behavior resulted from the school's failure to implement the student's Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or Section 504 Plan.
Typically, an MDR is conducted after the superintendent's determination and must happen within ten school days of the suspension. The MDR team, consisting of school representatives with knowledge of the student, members of the district's school board, and the student's parents or guardians, will consider all relevant information to understand the possible connection between the sanctioned misconduct and a disability.
If your student child has regular contact with behavioral counselors or other healthcare providers, it will be a good idea if they are present in the meeting. Some disabilities warranting an IEP or Section 504 Plan include:
- Emotional disabilities
- Hearing impairment
- Intellectual disabilities
- Learning disabilities
- Orthopedic disabilities
- Speech or language impairment
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Visual impairment
If the MDR team decides that an incident or pattern of misbehavior was caused by a student's disability or an IEP not being implemented, the student has the right to return to school immediately. The suspension will continue if the MDR team doesn't discover a disability. If the suspension is longer than ten school days, a superintendent may order a student to a DRDP.
Challenging the MDR Process
A student, parent, or guardian may pursue an expedited hearing if they refuse the MDR team's findings. The student and their parent or guardian can file a Request for Due Process (RDP) with the NVDOE.
Parents may be accompanied and advised by a professional student defense advisor during a due process hearing. Students will remain in a DRDP program pending the outcome of the case.
Nevada Students' Rights and DRDP Program Requirements
Students placed in a DRDP have rights. According to the NVDOE, students placed in a temporary program must:
- Continue to receive educational services to participate in the general education curriculum aligned with NVDOE standards of mathematics, writing, social studies, reading, and science.
- The work or instruction must not be considered "busy work" or assignments below the student's academic progress or grade level.
- Academic counseling required before entrance into the program must continue throughout DRDP.
- A student will receive, if necessary, a functional behavioral assessment or behavioral intervention services designed to address recurrent violations.
- Academic, personal, and career guidance counseling should be provided, as needed, during the program.
The Downside of Nevada's Exclusionary Discipline
Getting placed in a DRDP can enormously impact a child's future. It can slow down their academic progress, trigger more behavioral problems, and lead to students dropping out and failing to obtain their high school diplomas. Being isolated from their friends and teachers can also affect their emotional health, which further impacts their academic performance. Although removal from traditional educational programs is meant to be a positive behavior management tool, it can lead to adverse outcomes.
A study conducted by the Center for Court Innovation concluded that schools tend to overuse zero-tolerance approaches to discipline and safety. They found that zero-tolerance policies:
- Increase racial disparities and referrals to the juvenile justice system.
- Likely have adverse effects on child development.
- Create unintended consequences for students, families, and communities that result in higher societal costs.
If your child faces placement in a DRDP, you must become involved to prevent these counterproductive consequences. Their future depends on it.
Protecting Your Child Experiencing Disciplinary Issues at Their Nevada High School
Parents have a better chance of preventing their children from being remanded to a DRDP 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 immediately and transcribe as much information as possible.
- Call student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento. With his years of experience and dedicated team, he and his team can begin working with you on a strategy once he has the details about your situation.
- Ensure that your child is alright. Speak to them about the incident and ask them to write down what they remember, including interactions with students, teachers, or school administration officials.
- Collect any evidence, including emails, texts, social media posts, and visual documentation, such as photos, if your child has sustained a physical 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 with school officials and anyone else. Note the date, time, and length of conversations.
- Keep all written and electronic correspondence relating to the disciplinary process and make copies.
It's critical that you consult with a student defense advisor as early in the process as you can. Once you know this issue can lead to severe disciplinary consequences, including a relocation to a DRDP, you must contact a professional to help you navigate the situation.
How an Experienced Student Defense Advisor Can Help You
When your student faces a temporary placement in a Nevada DRDP, you might think it's not that important of an issue. After all, the limitations of suspensions and expulsions mean your student child may return to school eventually. These misunderstandings can lead to the long-term consequences noted above. You don't want your child falling by the wayside and missing out on the college experience or failing to begin their dream career.
You may also think that school administration officials, MDR team members, and other school employees aren't civil authorities, so you don't need representation, right? The rules surrounding school discipline in Nevada are complex. It takes an experienced student defense advisor to understand the laws and apply them to your child's specific situation to provide them with a better outcome.
If you don't fully grasp the NRS or your particular school's code of conduct, you may struggle to defend your child's rights during the disciplinary change in the placement decision process. You need experienced help when your child's future is on the line.
How a Student Defense Attorney Joseph D. Lento Can Help Your Child Avoid DRDP Placement
Inexperienced attorneys typically begin their defense of a student's academic career by threatening expensive lawsuits. Although a formal suit is a possible course of action to keep you or your student child intact with their studies, litigation is rarely necessary. While many attorneys tout their legal expertise in front of judges and juries, those skills don't often translate into proven tactics to mitigate negative consequences in student disciplinary matters.
Few lawyers have demonstrated themselves to be successful student defense advisors like Joseph D. Lento. He coaches students and their parents and guardians to prepare them for MDR hearings and works to negotiate with school administration officials and an institution's Office of General Counsel (OGC) before a DRDP is recommended as behavior remediation. Even if you can't have an advisor present with you at the meetings, Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm can still be an invaluable asset to you and your child as you navigate this tricky situation.
A professional specializing in student discipline defense can help you make sense of the NRS and its nuances to know what your child's rights are and how to protect them. 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 disciplinary procedures correctly. You don't want the school to abuse its authority and send your hard-working child to a DRDP for a minor offense that can be handled by school administration officials in a traditional situation.
Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm have assisted countless students across Nevada and the U.S. in disciplinary matters, allowing them to stand up to their schools and protect their rights effectively. They have the knowledge and experience necessary to support you and your child through a challenging situation with your school board and sanctioning body. Contact the Lento Law Firm by calling 888-535-3686 or visit the online consultation form to protect your child's high school education and future.