Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the North Dakota High School System

Alternative education programs are the darlings of school administrators and the bane of students and their parents. To the school administrator, whether in North Dakota or elsewhere, alternative education is a great place to send the proverbial thorns in the side, those students whose unconventional presentation may require teachers to expend more energy and administrators to expend more time and trouble. To the school principal, alternative education means the unconventional student is out of sight and out of mind. But to the student and parent, alternative disciplinary placement can mean embarrassment and reputational harm. Alternative placement can mean isolation from friends and supportive structures. Alternative placement can even mean ultimate failure, when the alternative school's far distance, short hours, and flexible instruction fails to help the student meet minimum graduation standards. Parents, don't let your North Dakota high school student suffer forced alternative disciplinary placement. National school discipline advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team can help your North Dakota high school student fight disciplinary charges threatening alternative education placement.

Banishing North Dakota Students to Alternative Education

Students generally don't just wake up one morning preferring to attend an alternative disciplinary high school, otherwise known as boot camp or reform school. Enterprising school principals, trying to solve what they perceive to be an annoyance, burden, or ill-fit within their building's educational program, may recommend that the parents and student accept a voluntary alternative placement. But fortunately for the student, few parents and students do. Instead, North Dakota's alternative disciplinary placement generally depends on the high school principal asserting disciplinary grounds. High school principals generally point to some form of behavioral misconduct. And indeed, serious weapons offenses and violence, or even imminent failure or withdrawal, can be solid grounds for quickly moving a student to an alternative high school. But for the rest of the students facing minor disciplinary issues, those serious grounds are a big part of the problem. Alternative schools are often primarily for failing, at-risk, dangerous, and disruptive students, not exactly where you'd want your North Dakota high school student to be. Retain national school discipline defense advisor Joseph D. Lento to lead the fight to preserve your student's traditional high school placement. Don't let your student suffer banishment to the disciplinary school on weak disciplinary grounds.

North Dakota Alternative Education Laws

North Dakota Revised Law 67-16-01-01 authorizes any North Dakota school district to apply to the state to establish an alternative high school for students ages sixteen to twenty-one who are out of a traditional high school. North Dakota alternative high schools ensure that suspended or expelled students and students dismissed for failure or dropping out on their own, avoid prosecution under the state's truancy laws, specifically North Dakota Revised Law 15.1-20-01. Just because a traditional high school won't take a student or can't effectively serve a student doesn't mean the student can sit around at home. Indeed, North Dakota Revised Law 15.1-20-03.2 requires the district superintendent to publish truancy prevention measures so that students remain in one school or another. Other North Dakota laws provide for state funding of district alternative disciplinary schools, state monitoring and certification of those alternative schools, and cooperative agreements between districts to establish a single school. Your student may have to travel to another district for an alternative education program. And under North Dakota Revised Law 67-16-01-04, courses in the alternative school need not meet the state's minimum curriculum requirements. In that sense, North Dakota alternative high schools can lawfully be the “free pass” schools for which they have the reputation.

Removal to a North Dakota Alternative High School

North Dakota Revised Law 15.1-19-10 expressly authorizes a school district board to expel a student from the traditional high school for unlawful weapons possession while sending the student to the alternative disciplinary school: “If a school district expels a student under this section, the district may authorize the provision of educational services to the student in an alternative setting.” Weapons possession, though, is only one among many other grounds on which a school principal, district superintendent, and district board may suspend or expel a student, effectively requiring the student to attend an alternative high school. North Dakota Revised Law 15.1-19-09 specifically authorizes a district board to also expel students for “insubordination, habitual indolence, or disorderly conduct.” The same law further grants district school boards authority to “adopt rules regarding the suspension and expulsion of a student,” implying much broader authority to establish other grounds for removal.

North Dakota Alternative High Schools

North Dakota school districts have pursued their statutory authority to establish alternative high schools. For example, Community Alternative High School is an alternative school serving Grand Forks, while Woodrow Wilson Alternative High School serves Fargo, and Southwest Community High School serves Dickinson. North Dakota's alternative high schools, like alternative schools elsewhere, tend to advertise their positive commitments. But they also admit, like Dickinson's Southwest Community High School, that they are for “students who have had difficulty learning in the traditional high school setting.” As a result of their challenged student population, and perhaps as a result of their loose structure, shortened hours, and modified curriculum, graduation rates at alternative high schools can be well below state medians, as is the case, for example, at Grand Forks' Community Alternative High School, having a 35% graduation rate. Alternative high school is not the place where you would ordinarily want your student to go to complete a high school education. The chances of completion may be low, and the learning may be deficient.

North Dakota High School Disciplinary Grounds

North Dakota high school disciplinary officials have more statutory authority at their beck and call, and greater latitude and even some discretion, for disciplining high school students. High school students can face any number of significant behavioral issues that can, under North Dakota law, lead to disciplinary charges. In addition to authorizing expulsion for weapons possession, other North Dakota school discipline laws authorize punishment up to suspension or expulsion for such things as:

  • Chronic absenteeism
  • Alcohol use or possession
  • Drug or other illegal substance possession
  • Bullying
  • Hazing

North Dakota Student Conduct Codes

North Dakota school boards routinely exercise their statutory authority under North Dakota Revised Law 15.1-19-09 to adopt rules further regulating student behavior. See, for one prominent example, the student conduct codes within the Dickinson High School student handbook. Dickinson High School prohibits not just the standard weapons, alcohol, tobacco, and drug violations but also potentially vague interpersonal interactions like bullying, harassment, and threatening behavior. Vague conduct codes can grant school principals substantial discretion to apply the codes in an unfairly discriminatory fashion. Yet violations of those student conduct codes can result in disciplinary charges leading to suspension or dismissal and alternative disciplinary placement. The student handbook for Fargo's North High School, for another good example, prohibits the following forms of student misconduct:

  • Discrimination and harassment
  • Hazing
  • Bullying
  • Weapons possession
  • Irresponsible use of technology
  • Repeated unexcused tardiness or absences
  • Failure to complete assigned detention or make-up work
  • Cheating, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty
  • Gang behavior
  • Dress code violations
  • Possession of unlawful drugs, narcotics, or other harmful substances
  • Misuse of cell phones or other electronic devices
  • False identification or other misuse of school identification
  • Profane, abusive, or offensive language
  • Inappropriate, repeated, or disruptive messaging or telephoning
  • Theft or misuse of personal property, including damage or destruction
  • Possession of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or vaping products
  • Damaging or destroying school textbooks or other property
  • Causing or attempting to cause physical injury to another person
  • Insubordination detrimental to the welfare or safety of other students
  • Extortion or attempts to extort
  • Any behavior detrimental or disruptive to the educational environment, as the principal may determine

North Dakota High School Discipline Procedures

Given the breadth of North Dakota high school student conduct codes and the latitude they give school disciplinary officials to send students off to alternative disciplinary placement, it's a very good thing that North Dakota law requires high schools to provide suspended or expelled students with due process. Protective procedures give your retained school discipline defense advisor the opportunity to fight for your student's traditional high school placement. North Dakota Revised Law 15.1-19-10 subsection 2 requires that “[b]efore expelling a student, a school board or its designated hearing officer, within ten days of the student's suspension, shall provide the student with a hearing at which time the school board or its designated hearing officer shall take testimony and consider evidence, including the existence of mitigating circumstances.” While technically, Revised Law 15.1-19-10 applies only to weapons charges, Revised Law 15.1-19-09 extends those due process protections to any case involving a student's potential expulsion. The opportunity for a hearing before an impartial board or official, at which the decision maker must take testimony and consider other evidence, is a hallmark of due process. Your retained school discipline defense advisor can help your student call and question witnesses and present other exonerating and mitigating evidence.

North Dakota High School Discipline Appeal Procedures

Not only does North Dakota law mandate due process protections for any high school student facing long-term suspension or expulsion, but those laws also provide for a right of appeal of any adverse decision to another decision maker. After guaranteeing due process for the initial hearing, North Dakota Revised Law 15.1-19-10 subsection 2 continues, “If a designated hearing officer orders that a student be expelled, the student may seek a review of the decision by the school board, based on the record of the expulsion hearing.” Appeal rights like these ensure that a student facing alternative disciplinary placement has a second independent body or official review the decision for procedural error, lack of evidence, bias, conflict of interest, or other reversal grounds. Retain national school discipline defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team to pursue your student's winning representation through formal hearing and appeal procedures. Advisor Lento has helped hundreds of students nationwide defend and defeat school disciplinary charges.

Example North Dakota High School Disciplinary Procedures

North Dakota high schools generally recognize their obligations under North Dakota law to provide students facing alternative disciplinary placement with due process. North Dakota high school student handbooks typically refer to those disciplinary procedures. The Dickinson High School student handbook provides a good example. While not detailing specific procedures, that handbook refers to due process in several places with statements like, “Students shall be afforded appropriate due process rights based on the severity of disciplinary penalty that the District is considering imposing.” Even if the high school student code of conduct does not mention protective procedures, as appears to be the case in the student handbook for Fargo's North High School, the state law due process mandates will control. National school discipline defense advisor Joseph D. Lento can help your student ensure that school disciplinary officials offer appropriate protective procedures for your student to defend and defeat the charges.

North Dakota High School Disciplinary Representation

A skilled and experienced school discipline defense advisor's representation is indeed often the critical component to a winning defense of high school disciplinary charges. Due process guarantees are meaningless unless the accused student, the student's parents, and the student's retained advisor invoke them strategically for the best outcome. North Dakota high school disciplinary officials, like disciplinary officials elsewhere, may construe a student's failure to invoke available procedures as a waiver of those procedures. Disciplinary officials may even default a student, ignore procedures, and impose discipline, including alternative placement, if the student or parents do not respond as their rules and procedures require. National school discipline defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team know not only how to invoke protective procedures, demanding that school disciplinary officials follow them, but also how to deploy those procedures to their best effect. Get the professional help you need to preserve your North Dakota high school student's traditional high school placement.

North Dakota Disciplinary Informal Resolutions

Winning a high school disciplinary case, and avoiding alternative disciplinary placement, is only sometimes a matter of going to battle in contested hearings. Often, what North Dakota high school disciplinary officials need to see and hear is that the student and the student's parents are taking the disciplinary charges seriously. Disciplinary officials may also need to see and hear creative, win-win proposals for resolution that not only preserve the student's traditional high school placement but also address the school's concerns with the student's behavior. National high school discipline defense advisor Joseph D. Lento knows the kinds of proposals that disciplinary officials are likely to accept. Advisor Lento can also help those school officials see how early creative, informal resolution can avoid the burden, expense, and risk of disciplinary procedures. Advisor Lento has helped many students nationwide obtain prompt dismissal of disciplinary charges on compromise grounds that avoid any discipline while preserving the student's traditional educational program. Give your North Dakota high school student the opportunity for early informal resolution by retaining advisor Lento.

Appealing North Dakota High School Discipline

Skilled appeal representation can also be critical to your student's effective defense of North Dakota high school disciplinary charges. We've seen above that North Dakota Revised Law 15.1-19-10 subsection 2 authorizes expelled students to appeal to the district board on the record. Appeals, though, are not as simple as writing a letter to the board. An appeal “on the record” means that your student's advisor must, in pursuing a winning appeal, obtain, analyze, and effectively cite the hearing transcript and evidence. Appeals also require timely invoking the board's appellate procedures, then drafting and timely submitting a compelling appeal brief arguing the law and evidence. Your student's appeal gives your student a proverbial second bite at the apple. But winning appeals take winning skills and experience. Retain national school discipline defense advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team for those winning appeal services.

Special Relief from North Dakota Alternative Placement

Students and their parents sometimes exhaust all available formal procedures and appeals without relief, especially when they go unrepresented by skilled and experienced counsel. North Dakota students facing disciplinary placement after exhausting all protective procedures may, though, still have a chance to retain their traditional high school placement. National school discipline defense advisor Joseph D. Lento has successfully negotiated special relief for students nationwide, through school general counsel offices, outside retained counsel, or similar school oversight channels. School districts in North Dakota and elsewhere employ lawyers, risk managers, and ombuds officials to minimize the district's regulatory and liability exposure. Harsh, unfair, discriminatory, or otherwise poorly handled school discipline places a district at risk of litigation and even agency fines. Advisor Lento has the national network and reputation to reach and advocate with school oversight officials for the accused student's reinstatement, even after expulsion and alternative placement. Don't give up on your student's future without consulting advisor Lento.

Future Harm from North Dakota Disciplinary Placement

The above discussion has only briefly mentioned the potential educational, vocational, and career impacts of alternative disciplinary placement. Alternative disciplinary placement can affect your student's future education. Your student may aspire to attend a North Dakota college or university or pursue higher education elsewhere. But colleges and universities examine high school transcripts. They also typically require applicants to disclose prior school discipline. Disciplinary placement can spoil your student's otherwise sound and strong academic record. Your student may not get into your student's preferred school or program because of disciplinary placement. Your student could also lose opportunities for vocational training and professional or vocational licensure or certification. Your student's disciplinary placement could also cause your student to lose jobs and careers. It's not simply that the alternative high school may not offer rigorous academics. The problem is also that whether it educates your student adequately or not, others may regard the alternative education as inferior. Protect your North Dakota high school student's long-term interests. Retain national school discipline defense advisor Joseph D. Lento to preserve your student's traditional high school placement.

North Dakota Disciplinary Placement Developmental Impacts

School disciplinary accusations in North Dakota and elsewhere can carry very high costs. And those costs are not just educational, vocational, and financial. The larger adverse impact on your student of disciplinary charges and alternative placement may be emotional and developmental. Your student likely faces many of the same social and developmental challenges as other teens face. You've likely already seen that even minor challenges can cause major disruptions. Alternative disciplinary placement is a major, not a minor, disruption of a high school student's life. Alternative placement removes your student's supporting network of student peers, familiar teachers, friendly advisors, parents, coaches, aides, and administrators. That loss alone can isolate and depress an otherwise well-adjusted high school student. Alternative placement also embarrasses many students, contributing to a loss of concentration and confidence. The loose structure and shortened hours of the typical alternative schools can also remove important markers that your student may need for structure and accountability. Treat most seriously these emotional, social, and developmental impacts of alternative disciplinary placement. You know your student best. Get your student the skilled and experienced professional representation your student needs to preserve the traditional high school placement and rosy future.

Premier North Dakota School Discipline Defense

Your temptation may be to retain an unqualified local criminal defense attorney whom you know or whom friends recommend to you. Local criminal defense in the criminal courts is very different, though, from school disciplinary defense in the school's administrative procedures. The rules, evidence, tactics, strategies, customs, and conventions of each forum, one judicial and the other administrative, all differ. Instead of a local criminal defense attorney, retain national school discipline defense advisor Joseph D. Lento for the special academic administrative skills and experience your North Dakota high school student needs. Make your student's situation much better, not worse. Remember that advisor Lento has successfully defended hundreds of students nationwide against all kinds of school misconduct charges. Trust advisor Lento for your student's winning 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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