Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the Oklahoma High School System

Administrators at your student's Oklahoma high school may try to make disciplinary placement in an alternative high school sound attractive to you and your student. But very few, if any, alternative high schools, whether in Oklahoma or other states, are dream schools. Disciplinary placement is not to your student's advantage. Instead, disciplinary placement can mark your student as unworthy of the trust, respect, and opportunity that your student is due. If your instinct tells you that disciplinary placement could choke your student's dreams and ambition, trust your instinct. Don't give in to high school officials who just want an easy route out. Out of sight, out of mind, while banished to an alternative high school, is not a viable educational option. Go to bat for your student's future. It doesn't matter whether your student faces high school academic misconduct charges or more serious disciplinary charges. Step up, and retain the attorney advisor representation your student needs to preserve your student's traditional high school placement. Premier school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team are available across Oklahoma, no matter the location of your student's high school.

Oklahoma Alternative Education

Oklahoma Administrative Code 210:35-29-2 defines an alternative education program as “an educational process incorporating appropriate structure, curriculum, interaction, and reinforcement strategies to stimulate learning with students who have not utilized their capacity to do so within traditional educational settings.” Alternative education programs are, in other words, for students failing within, or threatening or disrupting, the traditional high school program. Oklahoma Statute §70-1210.568 requires each school district within the state to establish alternative education programs for students at risk of failing to graduate from high school. The state promises to fund those alternative programs if they meet the statutory criteria. Oklahoma Statute §70-1210.568 permits school districts to collaborate on a single alternative education program and to contract with technical service providers for those programs. Larger Oklahoma school districts like the ones in Oklahoma City and Tulsa generally have their own well-developed alternative school programs, while smaller districts may collaborate on or contract for programs. In theory, Oklahoma Statute §70-1210.568 requires alternative high school programs to do such laudable things as:

  • provide for appropriate, presumably smaller, class sizes;
  • maintain reasonable student-to-teacher ratios;
  • screen students to ensure their program fitness;
  • employ certified teachers selected for good work with at-risk students;
  • offer students counseling, social services, and life skills instruction; and
  • have a plan for each student.

Experiencing Oklahoma Alternative Education

Theory, though, doesn't describe the disciplined student's common experience of alternative education. One policy organization, for instance, has decried the approximate fifty percent cut in funding for Oklahoma alternative education programs. Even with sharply limited funding, though, the problem may not be with the school's commitment, design, or intentions. The problem with alternative education is that it concentrates failing students into their own challenged population. Virtually every student in alternative education has a problem, at best making for an unstable educational environment. At worst, students in alternative education can bring severe problems to the program. Oklahoma Department of Education regulations define an at-risk student as one “whose present or expected status indicates they might fail to complete their secondary education for reasons which may include academic deficiency, behavioral difficulties, excessive absences, pregnancy or parenting, family issues, substance abuse, financial issues, physical or mental health issues, juvenile justice involvement, or other such factors, not including disability status.” That long list of problems accurately describes an Oklahoma alternative high school's challenging social and educational environment. Chances are that you don't want your student in that environment. Students in alternative education may just end up learning the wrong things.

Oklahoma Disciplinary Placement on Statutory Grounds

Oklahoma Statute §24-101.3 authorizes school district boards to enact policies for suspending and expelling students. The same statute, though, requires the school district to make a disciplinary placement of the suspended student in the district's alternative education program, if possible, before outright expelling the student from the school. By law, Oklahoma high school disciplinary officials must generally use alternative education as a last resort. Yet unfortunately, the number of students in alternative education continues to expand. In too many cases, alternative education is not a last resort but instead becomes a convenient way of relieving school teachers and officials from serving a student needing or deserving more than the usual attention. In short, Oklahoma high schools can banish students to alternative education whenever the school claims and proves the grounds. Oklahoma Statute §24-101.3.C. lists these broad grounds for suspending a student, which would include authority to banish the student to the district's alternative education program:

  • possession of an intoxicating beverage;
  • possession of property stolen from the school, a school employee, or a student during a school activity;
  • possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon;
  • possession of a controlled substance; or
  • violation of any other school regulation.

Oklahoma Disciplinary Placement Under School Codes

You've just seen that Oklahoma Statute §24-101.3 authorizes a school to suspend a student and send the student to alternative education for violation of any school regulation, not just for weapons, drugs, or alcohol violations. That virtually unlimited authority vastly increases the risk of disciplinary placement in alternative education. Oklahoma school districts maintain elaborate student codes of conduct that prohibit all kinds of student misbehaviors way beyond weapons possession or drug dealing. Those codes generally provide for graduated discipline, beginning with a conference and intervention and progressing on to short-term and long-term suspensions. But the codes also often authorize prompt suspension even for a first minor offense. For example, the Oklahoma City Public Schools maintain a Student Code of Conduct that prohibits these behaviors, any one or more of which may result in suspension:

  • disrespect toward a teacher or other school official;
  • profanity or other abusive language;
  • refusing to identify one's self;
  • refusing to do school work or follow directions;
  • disrupting the learning environment;
  • disorderly conduct;
  • display of gang symbols;
  • provoking or instigating another student into violations;
  • leaving an assigned area;
  • misuse of school computers or wireless devices;
  • gambling;
  • extortion;
  • tobacco possession;
  • trespassing and vandalism;
  • threats and bullying;
  • harassment and hazing.

Oklahoma Alternative Placement Discretion

You can see from the above list how easily school disciplinary officials could suspend a student for relatively minor misbehavior. These school codes are so broad as to create significant risks that school officials will apply them subjectively, in biased or discriminatory patterns. Advocates point out, for instance, that Oklahoma City Schools have suspended as many as two-thirds of all African-American students in a single school year, a serious problem that extends statewide. School officials could even suspend a student for innocent behavior, like struggling with assignments, asking for needed help, or defending against threats and violence, that officials misconstrue to be laziness, disrespectful, or disruptive. That's one of the problems with high school disciplinary charges: students who caused no harm and meant no harm may face suspension simply for acting immaturely or when unfairly labeled as a troublemaker. If your Oklahoma high school student faces disciplinary charges, retain school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento to defend and defeat those charges. Preserve your student's traditional high school experience and future opportunities.

Appeal of Oklahoma High School Discipline

Oklahoma Statute §24-101.3.B. and C. provide for appeals of short-term and long-term out-of-school suspensions. An appeal guarantees that someone other than the school officials conducting the investigation, making the charge, and initially imposing the suspension will review the decision to suspend. In Oklahoma, school districts must provide for appeals of suspensions. Appeals of short-term suspensions may go to an appeals committee or the school district board, while appeals of long-term suspensions must go to the school district board or an appeals official whom the board appoints, after the district administration reviews the suspension. Board-level appeals should bring cooler heads to the table. If you retain a skilled and experienced attorney advisor to represent your student in the appeal, your student should stand a good chance of reinstatement, preserving the traditional high school placement. Effective appeals generally require skilled and experienced attorney advisor representation to show the appeal officials the compelling grounds for reversal. Retain school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento for your student's appeal.

Example Oklahoma Alternative Education Programs

Alternative education programs are generally available across Oklahoma, even if not in the same convenient locations as traditional high schools. For example, in Oklahoma's largest city, the Oklahoma City Public Schools concentrate alternative education programs at Emerson North Alternative High School, Putnam Heights Academy, and two Oklahoma Public School Resource Center locations. In Tulsa, the public school district concentrates alternative programs at Union Alternative School, Street School, Tulsa Learning Academy, Project ACCEPT, TRAICE (Tulsa Resource and Adolescent Intervention Centers of Excellence) Academy, TulsaMET, and Phoenix Rising Alternative School. In Norman, Dimensions Academy is the district's primary alternative education program. These alternative programs have their niche in providing last-chance educational services to troubled students. They are not generally, though, destination schools that students seek out. They generally do not provide the academics, arts, athletics, and other curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular programs that serve high school students well in their education and maturation. Trust school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento to preserve your student's traditional Oklahoma public or private high school placement.

Disciplinary Placement Harm

School discipline is supposed to be remedial and corrective. Too often, it is not. Assuming that they care about your student in the way that a concerned parent does, which is a very optimistic assumption, well-meaning school officials underestimate discipline's impact. A suspension removes your student from among school peers and from traditional instruction. Yes, peers can mislead one another. But peers also provide critical accountability and support. Unmoor your student from classmate relationships, and your student may just feel lost. And disconnect your student from the structure of the classroom environment, and your student can feel even more lost. Motivation is a precious commodity for high school students. Scholars suggest that alternative schools can provide caring settings but doubt that they provide meaningful and equitable instruction. Indeed, a report criticizing the overuse of suspensions in Oklahoma schools notes national data linking suspensions to repeating grades, dropping out, and a ten times higher juvenile crime rate. Those are not risks you want your student to face. Don't let disciplinary placement remove your student's critical peer support and instructional structure. Retain school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to defend and defeat your student's disciplinary charges.

Oklahoma High School Suspensions

Oklahoma high school suspensions are indeed more common than you probably think. Suspension is a real and substantial risk for many Oklahoma high school students. Statewide data shows nearly fifteen thousand high school suspensions in the most recent year for which statistics are available. Of those suspensions, more than one-third involved tobacco, drug, or alcohol possession or use. Nearly another one-third of those suspensions involved truancy. Thousands more suspensions involved some form of fighting, bullying, or assault. Hundreds of other suspensions involved gangs, weapons, vandalism, or suicide attempts. Any way you consider it, that's a lot of high school suspensions. Indeed, Oklahoma City school suspension rates have been among the highest in the nation. Your student is certainly not alone when facing school disciplinary charges. High school officials across Oklahoma don't hesitate to suspend students. Don't let your student become another unfortunate statistic. Help your student fight the disciplinary charges.

Oklahoma High School Disciplinary Procedures

Procedures are important for avoiding disciplinary placement. Procedures give your retained attorney advisor the opportunity to fight and defeat the charges. Oklahoma's public schools must give your student due process before a long-term suspension. Due process includes fair notice of the charges and an opportunity for some form of hearing before unbiased school officials. For example, the Student & Family Guide to Success for the Tulsa Public Schools promises students facing suspension “a right to appeal their suspension by requesting a hearing either before the site suspension review committee (SSRC), the superintendent or designee, or a Board of Education hearing officer as may be appropriate.” Tulsa Public Schools Policy 2619R provides these hearing procedures:

  • at least one day's notice of the time and place of the hearing;
  • the hearing held during workday hours convenient to the parent;
  • the right of the parent and student to attend the hearing;
  • that the hearing chair must read aloud the rule allegedly violated;
  • school officials must present evidence of the violation;
  • the student and parent or guardian may question adverse witnesses;
  • hearing officials must let the student present the student's side;
  • hearing officials must keep written minutes and write a report; and
  • students suffering more than a ten-day suspension may appeal to the superintendent.

Invoking Oklahoma High School Protective Procedures

Just because your student's high school promises hearing procedures doesn't mean high school officials will follow those procedures. Generally, a student must invoke the protective procedures. If the student does not actively pursue the protective procedures, school disciplinary officials may consider the student to have defaulted and agreed to the suspension and alternative placement. The Norman Public Schools Student and Parent Guide, for instance, require the student or parent to act within just two days, or the suspension will stand without a hearing: “The student/parent shall notify the principal verbally or in writing within two (2) school days following a suspension of their intent to appeal the suspension.” Don't rest on your procedural rights and let your student suffer suspension or expulsion as a consequence. Retain premier school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to help you invoke the protective procedures that can preserve your student's traditional high school placement. Your retained attorney can guide you through those procedures while communicating with school officials to ensure that your student has every right and recourse. Your student's future is worth it.

Negotiated Resolution of Oklahoma High School Charges

By forcing school officials to respond to your actions and the communications of your retained attorney advisor, procedures also give your student the opportunity for a prompt and helpful workout. With sensitive, firm, and effective attorney advisor representation, many high school disciplinary proceedings resolve informally through negotiation. From having successfully represented hundreds of students nationwide, school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento knows the kinds of workouts, assurances, and compromises that Oklahoma high school disciplinary officials will often accept to avoid your student's suspension or expulsion and alternative disciplinary placement. Importantly, creative and positive resolutions may include counseling, tutoring, or other services, or schedule and assignment adjustments, that your student needs for success. Or resolution may just take a thorough explanation of the circumstances surrounding the alleged misconduct. Whatever the case, attorney advisor Lento knows how to approach and advocate with school officials to preserve your student's traditional high school enrollment and avoid a hazardous and destructive alternative disciplinary placement.

Alternative Routes for Special Relief

Your student may have other ways to preserve the traditional high school enrollment, even after your direct communication, advocacy, and negotiation with school disciplinary officials has not been effective, and your student still faces alternative disciplinary placement. Don't give up just because you and your student have lost all hearings, reviews, and appeals before the school principal, school committees, or even the district superintendent. Oklahoma school districts, like school districts in other states, generally have oversight officials to help the district manage legal and regulatory risks. Those oversight officials may be general counsel offices, ombudsman offices, risk management offices, or outside counsel roles. School discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento has the national reputation and network to effectively locate, reach, and advocate with those oversight officials for your student's retention in the traditional high school. Oversight officials can have broader authority and take a broader view of the common interests of your student and your student's school. Exhaust every possible avenue for relief before letting your student fall into an alternative disciplinary school.

Oklahoma High School Discipline Defense Services

Before you retain national school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, you'd like to know what they will do. Every student discipline case is different. But attorney advisor Lento's effective and winning defense of disciplinary charges often involves these types of services:

  • help you and your student obtain and evaluate written notice of the charges including the evidence allegedly supporting the charge and the school rule or regulation your student allegedly violated;
  • timely answer the charges so that you and your student preserve every procedural right rather than suffer a default resulting in your student's permanent suspension;
  • help you and your student identify and gather contrary evidence disproving the school's charges, exonerating your student from the charges, and mitigating any potential penalty;
  • communicate with school disciplinary officials presenting, orally and in writing, not only the evidence and arguments in your student's favor but also the interest of all concerned in a prompt negotiated resolution;
  • help you and your student prepare for conferences, hearings, and appeals, so that school officials receive your student's defense in the most accurate, complete, and compelling form;
  • help you and your student prepare questions and cross-examination for adverse witnesses disproving their allegations by showing bias, interest, mistake, misidentification, or a lack of a factual foundation; and
  • invoke appeal procedures, research and draft appeal briefs, and advocate orally and in writing for reversal of any suspension, while reaching out to school oversight officials for alternative special relief.

Your Oklahoma High School Student's Future

Disciplinary charges and alternative high school disciplinary placement put your Oklahoma high school student's future at risk. The risk is not just that your student could lose the traditional high school placement. Alternative high school disciplinary placement can mean that your student loses other things in the future about which your student rightly dreams. Disciplinary placement can mean losing access to a preferred college, university, or vocational program. Disciplinary placement can mean losing not just high school friends and relationships but also support from teachers, administrators, coaches, and mentors. Disciplinary placement can also affect future licensing and employment opportunities. Students facing suspension and alternative placement can also suffer mental and emotional distress, depression, and other subtle or even severe psychological, social, and developmental harms. Make no mistake: your Oklahoma high school student's future is at stake when your student faces alternative placement. Get the premier attorney advisor help that your student needs.

National school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended high school students nationwide against all kinds of misconduct charges. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team are available for your Oklahoma high school student's disciplinary 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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