Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the New Mexico High School System

Families living and working in New Mexico depend upon the state's high school system as a bastion of academic and experienced-based learning to provide for the next generation of conscientious adults. Parents work diligently to prepare their children for adulthood; whether they envision them as business owners, doctors, lawyers, or teachers, each journey is built on obtaining a valuable high school diploma. Adolescence is a time when high school students attempt to understand how to overcome adversity and forge their own path forward. Although their parents assist them in their endeavors and help them in their challenges, schools are not always as forgiving as loved ones.

Misconduct that once warranted a mere phone call home from the school principal's office or guidance counselor is increasingly becoming grounds for suspension and expulsion in schools with zero-tolerance stances. Unfortunately, hard-working students of good character can get caught in difficult situations with administration officials. School disciplinary boards may unfairly blame your student child for violations they didn't commit by acting too quickly, relegating them alongside perpetual offenders. Consequences emanating from the subsequent grievance procedures will indeed hinder their academic or professional careers for years to come.

Dedicated parents don't want a miscommunication between their child and the school to derail years of achievement, but it happens in New Mexico high schools. Considering the far-reaching negative effects of sanctions, it's crucial that you understand how schools handle misconduct and how they can have adverse effects on your child.

Avoiding Alternative Education Placement in New Mexico

When a New Mexico high school accuses your child of misbehavior or misconduct, penalties can be as minor as having to complete an ungraded assignment or as harsh as dismissal from the school. Punishments should be proportional to the severity of the alleged misconduct—as stated in many codes of conduct—but that isn't always the case. New Mexico school boards have an obligation to safeguard a school's interests, and your child must defend themselves against a large institution.

One option New Mexico school districts have for students with recurrent behavioral violations is to act upon NMSA Section 22-2C-6 and send them to a remediation program. While most states refer to these as a disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP) or an alternative education program (AEP), remedial programs in New Mexico still work the same. Remediation is focused on providing a substitute to a traditional learning environment to assist students deemed “at risk” of not graduating, whether for academic or behavioral reasons.

While such a pathway provides a solution for some young adults and helps them obtain a high school diploma, New Mexico remediation programs or AEPs can label your child a delinquent, causing them to become vulnerable to unfair treatment and jeopardizing their future. Furthermore, individual remedial programs may face their own unique problems, such as an outdated curriculum, substandard teaching methods, and a scarcity of quality student support services.

If your student child faces a New Mexico high school disciplinary proceeding, the risk of them heading to a remediation program is profound. To help you navigate the New Mexico school grievance process and keep your child out of an alternative educational setting, contact skilled student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and his student defense team at the Lento Law Firm. They have years of knowledge based on their excellent defense of students from disciplinary placements in New Mexico and across the country.

Student Codes of Conduct for School Discipline in New Mexico

New Mexico high schools don't investigate or sanction students through individual judgment. Each school must create an honor code or student code of conduct to govern behavior at the direction of the New Mexico Department of Education (NMDE), within state legislation guidelines.

Your child's high school's code of conduct is your foundation of defense against unnecessary school discipline. Your student defense advisor can acquire and examine the school's rules to ensure they follow their own parameters, treat your child fairly, and refrain from imposing excessive sanctions—like sending them to a remediation program. The code of conduct will specify prohibited behavior for students and the subsequent penalties. Although each school district may vary in how it outlines misconduct in its code, some common prohibited behaviors according to NMSA Section 22 include:

  • Bullying/cyberbullying
  • Computer misuse
  • Drug, alcohol, and tobacco use
  • Student or teacher assault
  • Theft
  • Title IX violations
  • Vandalism
  • Weapons at school

Along with prohibited behaviors, the code of conduct will detail how the school may manage infractions. Consequences typically include:

  • Behavioral counseling: Parents or guardians and school administration personnel monitor the student and may implement corrective action.
  • Detention: Students must come to school outside regular teaching hours—either before or after—or on a Saturday to complete their coursework.
  • Exclusion: New Mexico school teachers may exclude students from their classrooms for specific misbehavior.
  • Loss of privileges: Students are prohibited from joining school clubs or extracurricular activities.
  • Community service: Completing a set number of service work hours at the school or with the local community.
  • Suspension: Students are barred from attending school for a set number of days. Each school or school district can create its own timeframe for short-term and long-term suspensions, which will be located in the specific institution's code of conduct or student handbook.
  • Remediation program: Students are temporarily assigned to an alternative education setting, typically until the long-term suspension period is over or until a hearing with the school board determines other options.
  • Expulsion: Students are banned from attending their regular school for a certain period—usually at least one year. Depending on the student's age, they must attend a remediation program.

Emergency Removals in New Mexico Schools

Schools have the right to conduct emergency removals of students in a limited range of cases. According to New Mexico's Education Regulation, a student may be excluded from school in extreme circumstances. For example, if the student's conduct presents a clear threat to the physical safety of themselves or others, the school administration may intervene in an appropriate manner to remove the student from the classroom or school.

A student facing temporary suspension will be granted an informal hearing in which the student is informed of the charges against them and the supporting evidence. They will also be given an opportunity to present their version of the facts. Unfortunately, the administrative authority is not required to allow the student to secure counsel, confront or cross-examine witnesses supporting the charge, or call witnesses to verify the student's version of the incident. Following the informal hearing, the student will be allowed back into the school, or the student will be suspended or expelled and given the option of enrolling in a remediation program.

Hearing Process for Suspensions and Expulsions in New Mexico

Schools grant students a formal hearing when a suspension or expulsion is a potential outcome, including sanctions involving relegation to a remedial program. The school will send a written notice to the student and their parent or guardian by mail within two school days of the alleged misconduct, which will include:

  • The rule or standard of conduct allegedly violated and the acts of the student alleged to constitute a cause for long-term suspension, expulsion, or mandatory reassignment
  • A description of the hearing procedures, along with procedures for appealing any decision rendered at the hearing
  • Summary of the evidence and witnesses to be presented at the hearing
  • Sanctions that may be implemented

The hearing will be scheduled within five days after the notice is sent to the student's parent or guardian. The procedure will include appearing before an independent hearing officer, school principal, superintendent, and other applicable school personnel.

During the proceedings, the following will occur:

  • Examination of student records, academic and behavioral
  • Presentation of evidence and witnesses
  • Cross-examination of witnesses (if applicable)

The hearing officer will recommend sanctions with the corresponding reasoning to the superintendent, who may review the report and change, revoke, or impose the sanction recommended, but may not impose a sanction more severe than that recommended by the hearing officer.

Parents or guardians have seven days upon receipt of the superintendent's decision to appeal the matter. A hearing will be conducted by the local school board or even with NBE officials within ten business days after it is requested.

Manifestation Determination Review in New Mexico High Schools

Students suspended for more than ten school days in a single school year for consistent misconduct, disruptions, or misbehavior must undergo additional procedures. The school district will move forward with a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR), afforded under the federally backed Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The purpose is to determine whether a student has a disability that caused the behavior or if the punished behavior resulted from the school's failure to implement a student's Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or Section 504 Plan.

Generally, an MDR is conducted within ten school days of suspension. The MDR team will include teachers a student sees regularly, the school or district's special education personnel, and parents or guardians. The members will make an effort to reveal if there is a relationship between a pattern of misbehavior or misconduct and a student's disability.

As a parent, you know your child best. If they have routine contact with therapists, behavioral advisors, or other healthcare providers, they should be present at the meeting. Disabilities warranting an IEP include:

  • Autism
  • Emotional trauma
  • Hearing impairment
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Learning disabilities
  • Orthopedic disabilities
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Visual impairment

If an MDR concludes that an alleged instance of misconduct or repetition of misbehavior originated from a student's unknown disability or was caused by the school's failure to apply the student's IEP, your child may return to school without hindrance. However, if the findings of a disability are inconclusive, the suspension or change in placement will continue.

Challenging the MDR Process

Parents disappointed with the results may pursue an expedited due process hearing by filing a complaint with the New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). Once this point in the process is reached, if you haven't hired a professional advisor, it will help you during the due process hearing. Depending upon the results from the MDR or the student or family's personal doctors or counselor, parents may seek NMSC Commission on Mental Health and Competency for further guidance and access to additional justice system options. Regardless, students will remain in a remediation program pending the outcome of the case.

New Mexico Student Rights and Program Requirements

Students placed in a remediation program have rights. The temporary program must provide students:

  1. The opportunity to receive educational services and participate in the general education curriculum, aligned with NMBE standards of mathematics, writing, social studies, reading, and science
  2. Instruction or schoolwork that isn't useless, considered “busy work,” or assignments below their academic progress or grade level
  3. Academic counseling before entrance into the program that will continue throughout the duration of remediation
  4. Behavioral assessments or intervention services designed to address persistent violations
  5. Academic, career, and personal guidance counseling while in the remedial program, if necessary

The Downside of New Mexico's Discipline Through Remediation Programs

Remediation programs can immensely impact a child's future. In reality, it can impede their academic progress, generate developmental problems, and encourage students to drop out and fail to obtain their high school diplomas. Seclusion from friends, teachers, and peers can also affect emotional health, further affecting academic performance.

A study performed by the Center for Court Innovation determined that schools abuse their zero-tolerance policies for disciplinary action. The study asserts that a zero-tolerance approach:

  • Creates vast unintended consequences like the prevalence of emotional instability, susceptibility to poverty, and a lack of academic progression
  • Likely causes adverse effects on child development
  • Intensifies racial disparities
  • Refers otherwise well-behaved students to the juvenile justice system

Although New Mexico schools have been avoiding zero-tolerance policy approaches in recent years, some schools are still governed by it. Therefore, schools may move to exclude students from the classroom, suspend them from school, or place them in a remediation program for misbehavior without accounting for extenuating factors.

If your child faces school discipline that can result in a remedial placement, you must retain professional assistance to prevent the negative consequences it may cause. Your child's future depends on it.

Protecting Your Child Experiencing New Mexico School Disciplinary Issues

Students can avoid placement in a remediation program if their parents remain active and engaged during the disciplinary process, from allegations to the final determination. When your student child is accused of misconduct, these steps will help you begin a well-informed defense:

  1. Ensure that your child is emotional and physically stable. Afterward, help them write down what they remember from the incident, like contacts with their peers, instructors, or school administration officials.
  2. Contact the school and transcribe as much information as possible they give about the incident.
  3. Call student defense advisor Joseph D. Lento. With his years of experience and his dedicated team at the Lento Law Firm. He and his team can begin working with you on a strategy.
  4. Collect any evidence available to you, including emails, texts, social media posts, and photos describing the incident.
  5. Refer to your student's school's code of conduct or the school board district website to see the course of the process.
  6. Document the date, time, and content of conversations with school officials and anyone else briefed on the matter.
  7. Retain all correspondence, written and electronic, relating to the disciplinary process.

You must consult with a student defense advisor as early in the process as possible. Once you know this issue can lead to severe disciplinary consequences, including a relocation to an AEP, contact a professional to help you navigate the situation.

How Can Professional Assistance Help?

When your student faces a temporary placement in a New Mexico remediation program, you might think it's not a big deal. With specific limitations on the timeframes of suspensions, expulsions, and remedial programs, your student child will eventually return to their regular studies—there's nothing to worry about, right? Misconceptions like these can lead to the adverse long-term consequences noted before. Dedicated parents don't want their children falling behind, missing out on college, or failing to begin their careers.

You may believe that teachers, school administration personnel, MDR team members, and other disciplinary officials aren't law enforcement authorities, as well. Therefore, you can get by without representation, right? The rules governing school discipline in New Mexico are complex. It takes an experienced student defense advisor who understands the laws and uses them to defend your child and provide them with a better outcome.

If you don't fully grasp New Mexico state legislation or your school or school district's code of conduct, you may struggle to uphold your child's rights during meetings to determine if a remediation program is the proper course of action for the disciplinary change in the placement process. You need proven and committed help when your child's future academic career is on the line.

How a Student Defense Advisor Joseph D. Lento Can Help Your Child Avoid a Remediation Program

Rookie attorneys typically begin their defense of a student by threatening expensive lawsuits against the school or the NMBE to force officials to take the student out of consideration for a remediation program. Although a formal suit is a possible means to keep your student child intact with their studies in a traditional school, litigation doesn't necessarily imply a positive end. Attorneys also boast their legal proficiency in arguing before judges and juries. Even so, those skills don't often translate into tactics needed to mitigate negative consequences in student disciplinary matters, especially in cases involving decisions for alternative education.

Few lawyers have proven themselves to be prominent student defense advisors like Joseph D. Lento. He coaches students and their parents to prepare them for MDR hearings and what they need to do to ensure their student child can remain in school where they belong. He has also negotiated with school administration officials and an institution's Office of General Counsel (OGC) before the school recommends a change in placement as a solution.

Parents typically don't know the ins and outs of student discipline and how New Mexico state education law supports them. However, a proven legal specialist can analyze your child's code of conduct and make sense of how disciplinary procedures are conducted and the responsibilities of school administrators. You don't want authorities to overstep their boundaries and enforce excessive punishments. This will lead to your child being sent to a DAEP for behavior that could have been handled holistically.

Fortunately, Joseph D. Lento has helped countless students across New Mexico and the U.S. in keeping them out of solitary DAEPs. He and his team at the Lento Law Firm provide a foundation on which students can stand up to their school disciplinary boards and fight against unwarranted punishments. They are staffed with knowledgeable personnel with the empathy and experience necessary to support your student child through one of the most challenging situations of their lives. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or visit the online consultation form to protect your child's academic livelihood.

Contact Us Today!

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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