Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the Ohio High School System

Most parents in Ohio would love for their child to be valedictorian, or at least graduate from high school with strong grades and a clean behavioral record. In reality, countless students struggle through high school. When behavioral issues become chronic, or your child faces serious allegations of misconduct, the Ohio public school system may take drastic action.

Ohio handles disciplinary placement at the local level. The school board in your town, city, or specific district may hold your child's future in its hands. To protect that future, you may hire an attorney to ensure that your child receives the due process they're entitled to.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are familiar with Ohio's alternative education rules and procedures. We'll familiarize ourselves with your child's school district (if we're not already familiar) and form a plan to secure the best outcome for your child.

Young people make mistakes, and most of these mistakes should be dealt with compassionately. If your child's Ohio school district decides to reassign them to an alternative education program, it will cast a stigma upon your student.

Let our team fight for your family. We know the law, and we'll use our experience and resources to seek a resolution that your family can be pleased with.

Code of Conduct for High School Students in Ohio

Because discipline in Ohio high schools falls largely upon individual districts, we'll use Xenia Community Schools' 2021-2022 Student Code of Conduct as an illustrative example. This school district's rules prohibit:

  • Certain public displays of affection
  • Wearing "sexually explicit" clothing
  • Causing damage to school property
  • Skipping school
  • Cheating
  • Gambling
  • Possessing, selling, buying, or even smelling like drugs or alcohol
  • Engaging in disruptive or disrespectful behaviors
  • Extortion
  • Fire-related offenses
  • Possessing weapons, including but not limited to firearms

Depending on the specific school and district, chronic truancy and poor academic performance could lead to suspension, expulsion, or reassignment, too.

Some of these offenses may appear minor, and many are minor—compared with more serious offenses, at least. However, multiple "minor" offenses may compel school districts in Ohio to take disciplinary action that it believes is justified.

If a school district decides that your child has flouted its rules repeatedly, it may even resort to suspension, expulsion, and reassignment of your child to an alternative program.

These outcomes don't have to happen. Our firm will work hard towards an outcome that is not overly punitive, and that keeps your child's future goals intact.

Who Will Discipline My Child for Alleged Code of Conduct Violations?

A superintendent will generally issue any serious discipline towards your child. The superintendent does not have complete authority to issue discipline as they see fit, though, as there are statutory parameters within which they must act.

For example, Ohio Revised Code Section 3313.66 states that "the superintendent of schools of a city, exempted village, or local school district, or the principal of a public school may suspend a pupil from school for not more than ten school days."

Even though the superintendent does not have power to impose a suspension beyond ten days, they may have the authority to:

  • Expel your student for a period of a year or longer
  • Extend disciplinary measures repeatedly, whether the discipline is an expulsion, reassignment, or other measure
  • Readmit your child into the high school system after they've fulfilled their discipline
  • Make other decisions that significantly affect your child's present and future

Never forget this: Due process is central to all high school disciplinary procedures in Ohio. A superintendent may not make any disciplinary decision without adequately informing you of their intent, and allowing you the chance to retain an attorney and defend your child.

Potential Sanctions (Including Alternative School) Your Child May Face for Alleged Misconduct

The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) explains that students in grades six through 12 may be placed in an alternative education program during a period of expulsion or suspension.

Reassignment to alternative school is one of the most drastic measures that school districts in Ohio can take. Before taking this step, your child is entitled to less heavy-handed forms of discipline, which may include:

  • Detention
  • Removal from a classroom for a brief period of time
  • Meetings between administrator, student, and parent to discuss any behavioral issues
  • Behavioral probation, where the school provides a clear set of rules for your child to follow for a defined period of time
  • In-school suspension, or ISS
  • Tickets, in which students face monetary fines for violating their high school's code of conduct

Out-of-school suspension, expulsion, and reassignment can significantly harm a student's college prospects, which may also harm their professional pursuits. Though these consequences may seem far down the road (depending on your child's age), they are very real.

Can an Ohio School Board Remove Your Child in an "Emergency" Manner?

Under certain circumstances, superintendents and other authority figures in Ohio may take swift disciplinary measures against a student. In certain cases, the student may face permanent expulsion from the Ohio public school system.

For example, Ohio Revised Code Section 3313.662 allows a school district to "issue an adjudication order that permanently excludes a pupil from attending any of the public schools of this state" if they're convicted of certain criminal offenses. The student facing permanent expulsion must be 16 years or older, and may face this consequence if:

  • They possess a firearm, either concealed or expose, or "object indistinguishable from a firearm" in a school safety zone
  • They possess a controlled substance on school property or at a school-sanctioned event
  • They commit murder or manslaughter
  • They commit a sexual offense
  • They assault somebody

In order to suspend or expel a student based on these offenses, the superintendent must first: a) obtain proof of conviction or adjudication, and b) forward the proof of conviction or adjudication to the Ohio Board of Education.

Permanent suspension or removal from school is especially serious. It is not a given, however, that your child will face these consequences. Our firm will review your child's specific circumstances and explain the most appropriate course of action.

Ohio laws allow a school district to expel (perhaps permanently) certain students for proven offenses—the laws don't necessarily require the school district to expel your child, though.

There may still be several steps between your current stage and the expulsion of your child, whether temporary or permanent. Among other measures, you may be entitled to a meeting with the superintendent and others with influence over your child's discipline.

Even if your child's alleged wrongdoings expose them to immediate or extreme discipline, they still have due process. Our firm will ensure that your child receives that due process, regardless of what they've been accused of.

Your Child May Face Ohio's Adjudication Process for a Possible Expulsion

If reassignment to an alternative education program is a possibility for your child, then an expulsion hearing may be upcoming.

Per Ohio Revised Statutes Section 3301.121, the adjudication process to determine whether to "permanently exclude" a student includes:

  1. Notice of an adjudication hearing: The notice will provide the date, time, and location of the adjudication hearing, which you should have reasonable time to prepare for.
  2. Notice of your child's rights during the hearing: Your child has the right to legal counsel. We also have the right to record proceedings, which may be prudent because the recording could help with any necessary appeal. You, your child, and their attorney also have the right to review written findings related to the hearing.
  3. The adjudication hearing: Ohio law states that your child has the right to "present evidence, testimony, and factors in mitigation of the pupil's permanent exclusion" during the hearing. It is generally wise to have an experienced attorney handle these duties. Your attorney may also "confront, cross-examine, and compel the attendance of witnesses."

Failure to attend your hearing generally means forfeiting your right to defend your child from allegations against them. However, if there are circumstances that prevent your child from attending the hearing, the superintendent may have the discretion to change the hearing date.

Your child is entitled to a hearing even if they're facing out-of-school suspension or temporary expulsion (as opposed to permanent exclusion or reassignment to an alternative program). Per Ohio Revised Statutes 3313.66, "No pupil shall be issued an out-of-school suspension" without:

  • Receiving written notice of the district's intent to suspend the student, and the reasons for the proposed suspension
  • Having an "informal hearing" with the superintendent or other decision makers to "challenge the reason for the intended suspension or otherwise to explain the pupil's actions."

Keep in mind that the nature of your child's suspension or expulsion may determine whether, or for how long, they must attend an alternative education program. It is critical that you have capable representation before any hearings take place, as the hearing may be a pivotal moment in determining your child's educational path.

How Do Alternative Education Programs in Ohio Function?

Alternative educational programs in Ohio are generally meant for students who have been expelled or suspended from their public high school. Therefore, your child may have to attend an alternative school for the duration of their suspension or expulsion, or until they meet the school board's criteria for re-admission into public school.

These alternative programs may have several goals, and their purpose may vary on a student-by-student basis. Such goals may include:

  • Simply keeping a disruptive student away from the general body of students
  • Helping the student curb behaviors that have landed them in trouble
  • Improving the student's academic performance so that they may re-enter public high school
  • Helping a student develop positive habits
  • Disciplining a child for behavior that the district has deemed undesirable
  • Helping a student get their GED or prepare for trade school

In some cases, and depending on the grade in which your child faced reassignment to an alternative program, a student may finish their high school career in an alternative program.

Those who attend alternative programs may complete required activities such as:

  • Academic work
  • Community service
  • Physical activity
  • Counseling
  • Group activities
  • Trade-specific coursework

The curriculum at an alternative school may be specific to that school. Even if you believe that certain aspects of an alternative school could be positive for your child, you must remember the negative aspects of such schools—namely, that attendees are branded as a "problem".

Are There Common Standards for Alternative Education Programs in Ohio?

Ohio Revised Code Section 3313.533 grants "The board of education of a city, exempted village, or local school district" the power to implement and govern alternative schools. Local school boards may approve or deny alternative education programs based on:

  • Whether the stated mission of the proposed program meets the school board's vision for alternative education in the district, city, or village
  • Whether the program's proposed grade levels fulfill a need for alternative education in the area
  • The proposed entry criteria for accepting students into the program
  • The proposed metrics for allowing students to re-enter the general high school population after attending the alternative program
  • The proposed curriculum
  • Other criteria specific to the proposed program

The school board in your child's geographic region may ultimately mold what alternative education looks like.

What Offenses Should Not Result in Your Child Attending an Alternative Education Program?

There are many circumstances for which reassignment to alternative programs is not appropriate. Such circumstances include:

  • Students with disabilities: Children with disabilities have special rights within the Ohio high school system. If a disabled student's school intends to take disciplinary action beyond a ten-day suspension, it must first complete a Manifestation Determination Review. High schools cannot generally take action beyond a ten-day suspension if the disability could be the cause of the behavior that prompted discipline.
  • Students who were defending themselves: A student has a right to defend themselves. If an Ohio high school attempts to discipline your child for protecting themselves from physical harm, we will work to ensure that the school thinks again.
  • Students who face difficult home circumstances: Students who are homeless, neglected, or facing other difficult personal circumstances deserve empathy. A school should exercise all other tools, like counseling, before resorting to life-changing discipline.
  • Students who have no prior disciplinary record: A student's past matters when it comes to discipline. If your child has no prior record of discipline, this should work in their favor during this current disciplinary process.
  • Students who unintentionally broke the rules: Intent also matters when it comes time to discipline a high school student in Ohio.

Other circumstances may warrant leniency towards your child. Our firm will identify any such reasons and bring them to the attention of decision makers.

Why Alternative Education Could Harm Your Child, Both Now and in the Future

Alternative education in Ohio exists for good reason, but may not be right for your child. There are significant consequences when a student faces mandatory reassignment to an alternative school, including:

  • Stigma: A stint in alternative school creates the perception that your child has become too uncontrollable for public school. This stigma could affect your personal relationships, your child's relationships, and their self-image.
  • Lesser education: Alternative schools may be abnormally focused on discipline, and understandably so. However, the quality of instruction may fall with such an emphasis on teaching students proper behavior, rather than academic subjects.
  • Reputational harm: Your child's academic record will be visible to many who have influence over their future. There is no way to sugarcoat it: Assignment to alternative school will compromise your child's reputation.
  • Exposure to unsavory individuals: Some individuals truly need alternative education. Your child may be in frequent contact with individuals who have severe behavioral problems, criminal ties, substance abuse problems, and other significant red flags.

Attending an alternative educational program may place your child at risk of even worse behavior, limited choices for college, fewer possible career paths, and a poor quality of life in the future.

We must act now to avoid these undesirable outcomes. Our team will take full advantage of the hearing and appeals processes to help your child avoid alternative school.

Your Child Deserves Due Process

We have said it once, but it bears repeating: Your child deserves every single shred of due process that Ohio law affords them.

Ohio law places several guardrails between your child and unjustly swift or harsh punishment. For example, Ohio Revised Code Section 3313.66 requires that your child receive written notice of the district's intention to suspend them, and a list of reasons for the suspension, before the suspension can take place.

We'll ensure that the school district adheres to all aspects of due process in your child's case.

Appealing a Reassignment Decision by an Ohio School Board

Ohio Revised Code Section 3301.121 is absolutely clear. If your child faces expulsion, which may lead to assignment to an alternative education program, they can appeal:

"A pupil may appeal an order of permanent exclusion made by the superintendent of public instruction…"

The code explains that you must generally make this appeal to the Court of Common Pleas in the appropriate legal jurisdiction. Our firm is intimately familiar with Courts of Common Pleas, which suits us to handle any appeal that your child needs to file.

Should I Hire an Attorney for Help with My Child's Disciplinary Procedures?

Yes, you should hire an attorney to defend your student from any possible discipline, including reassignment to an alternative education program. You may hire Joseph Lento to represent you and your child because:

  • You understand that Ohio law regarding student discipline is complex and frequently changing, and you would like to hire an attorney who knows the latest legislation in great detail
  • You realize that your child's personal and professional futures are on the line, and you understand that hiring an attorney may help you preserve your child's chances of future success
  • You do not have the time, energy, or knowledge to defend your child as they deserve

Your child's future must be the only priority right now. Once you accept this, then hiring an attorney may be the clear decision.

Ohio has made significant changes to its students' disciplinary policies, with Ohio House Bill 318 in particular affecting who and how Ohio school districts can discipline students. The Lento Law Firm team is constantly digesting and synthesizing such legislative changes into our student discipline defense strategies.

What Will Attorney Lento and His Team Do for My Child?

Our firm handles many student discipline cases, including those that take place in Ohio. Our experience and expertise is an asset to clients, who don't have to spend time researching relevant laws, learning legal procedures, or trying to figure out strategies to defend your child.

When we accept a case like your child's, we fight tirelessly to secure a positive outcome. This generally means that we will:

  • Secure all evidence relevant to your child's case, including any evidence that sheds positive light on your kid's behavior
  • Obtain witness accounts that support your child's case, including those from character witnesses
  • Accompany you and your child to any necessary hearings, meetings, and appeals
  • Question witnesses, present evidence, and complete the others steps in the hearing process
  • Take any necessary legal steps to prevent your child's expulsion or reassignment to alternative school

We pay careful attention to the needs of each client. Your child is a person, and our legal approach will be geared towards preserving their future.

Call the Lento Law Firm or Submit an Online Query Today—Don't Wait

Ohio school districts may not delay in punishing your child. Don't wait to get legal help. We will start preparing a legal strategy as soon as you hire us.

Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or submit your child's case details online. Your child's future is safe with us.

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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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