Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the Oregon High School System

Reform school is no high school student's ambition. Indeed, reform schools have faced such strong criticism that educators no longer generally even call reform schools by that term. Alternative education is the modern term for the old reform schools, most of which have closed. And alternative education is supposed to be different. But make no mistake: disciplinary placement in alternative education can look and feel very like the old reform schools. Disciplinary placement in alternative education can also have similar adverse effects, like dropout and juvenile delinquency, to the old reform school. If your Oregon high school student faces disciplinary placement in alternative education, treat the matter most seriously. Don't just heedlessly accept the recommendation of school disciplinary officials that your student leaves the traditional high school for alternative education, even if your student faces high school academic misconduct charges or more serious disciplinary charges. Instead, get the premier advice and representation your Oregon high school student needs for the best outcome. School discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento has successfully represented hundreds of students nationwide in defense of disciplinary charges. Retain attorney advisor Lento to help preserve your student's traditional Oregon high school placement.

Oregon High School Discipline Laws

Oregon law expressly authorizes school districts to suspend and expel students, sending them to alternative education programs. If your student's high school has accused your student of misconduct, your student faces a real and substantial risk of disciplinary placement. Oregon Revised Statute 339.250 requires students to comply with school rules. The same statute requires the school board to "adopt written policies for the discipline, suspension or expulsion of any refractory student" who violates those rules. The statute lists these very broad grounds for suspension or expulsion:

  • willful disobedience;
  • open defiance of the authority of a school employee;
  • possession or distribution of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances;
  • use or display of profane or obscene language;
  • willful damage or injury to school property;
  • use of threats, intimidation, harassment, or coercion against a student or a school employee;
  • assault of a school employee or another student; or
  • intentional attempts, by word or conduct, to place a school employee or another student in fear of imminent serious physical injury.

Oregon High School Student Conduct Codes

Oregon law requires school districts to adopt student codes of conduct, elaborating the grounds on which to suspend or expel students. Your student's high school code isn't just a list of expectations. The student code of conduct instead has the backing of state law to suspend or expel a student who violates the code. The student code of conduct is important to your student's case outcome. Oregon student codes define the misconduct, the procedures to determine misconduct charges, and the discipline that may result. Under Oregon Revised Statute 339.250(3), the student code of conduct must:

  • define the learning environment that students must respect;
  • define the types of behavior that subject students to discipline;
  • establish procedures to address behaviors posing a threat to the safety of students or employees of the school;
  • establish the disciplinary system of consequences to correct student misconduct and promote behavior within acceptable norms; and
  • publicize the system of consequences to students, parents, and guardians.

Example Oregon High School Student Codes

Oregon high schools adopt elaborate student codes of conduct under the above legal authority. High school codes can be so broad as to implicate many behaviors that students might reasonably regard as horseplay, joking, excusable, or even innocent. The codes can also be so broad as to permit disciplinary officials to exercise significant discretion in which students to charge and discipline. Subjectivity in applying the codes can reflect biases and produce discriminatory patterns. For example, the Portland Public Schools maintain a Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities authorizing discipline up to suspension or expulsion for the following forms of student misconduct:

  • unauthorized clothing depicting drugs, alcohol, weapons, gang symbols, pornography, hate speech, or threatening or endangering others;
  • alcohol or drug possession, use, or distribution;
  • harassment, bullying, hazing, and sexual harassment;
  • internet misuse for plagiarism, copyright violation, threats, or accessing inappropriate materials or websites;
  • academic misconduct, including plagiarism and other cheating;
  • possessing weapons, explosives, poisons, stolen property, or gang materials;
  • tobacco use or possession, including e-cigarettes or vape pens;
  • threats of violence;
  • disorderly or disruptive conduct, including disobeying instructions; and
  • property damage, property theft, trespass, and vandalism.

Oregon High School Discipline Policies

Oregon law also details what a high school's discipline policy must address to ensure that the school treats the student fairly. Oregon law promotes remedial rather than punitive forms of discipline. Oregon law tends to favor keeping the accused student in traditional educational structures, even if disciplinary officials don't always agree. This commitment in Oregon law can give school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento strong legal grounds on which to advocate effectively for your student's retention in the traditional high school program. Oregon Revised Statute 339.250(5) provides that when suspending and expelling students, a district school board's discipline policy must:

  • protect students and school employees from harm;
  • provide opportunities for students to learn from their mistakes;
  • foster positive learning communities;
  • keep students in school and attending class;
  • impose disciplinary sanctions without invidious bias against students;
  • use a graduated set of fair, nondiscriminatory, proportionate, and age-appropriate responses to each student's individual misconduct;
  • use a range of discipline strategies accounting for the student's developmental capacities;
  • only discipline proportionate to the degree and severity of the student's misbehavior;
  • propose appropriate and accessible alternative programs of instruction;
  • use only research-proven approaches effective in reducing student misbehavior and promoting safe and productive social behavior; and
  • ensure the school conduct and discipline codes comply with all state and federal disability laws.

Oregon Alternative Education Laws

As in other states, Oregon's alternative education laws try to take the disciplinary sting out of the programs. Oregon Revised Statute 336.615 defines an alternative education program as simply "a school or separate class group designed to best serve students' educational needs and interests and assist students in achieving the academic standards of the school district and the state." No mention of discipline. Yet Oregon Revised Statute 336.625 requires school districts to maintain alternative education programs that are "flexible with regard to environment, time, structure and pedagogy." Alternative education is generally for students who cannot learn or who disrupt others' learning in traditionally structured high schools. Under Oregon Revised Statute 336.631 and other laws, Oregon school districts may fulfill their obligation to offer alternative education either by operating the alternative school or contracting with a private entity to do so. Your student's high school may, in other words, force your student from the public high school and into a private school, although, under Oregon Revised Statute 336.631, it may only do so after the district determines "whether the proposed placement best serves the student's educational needs and interests and assists the student in achieving the district and state academic standards."

Oregon Alternative Education Administrative Rules

The above Oregon laws do little more than require Oregon school districts to offer alternative education for students who cannot persist in traditional high school. Oregon administrative rules fill out the details of those alternative education programs. Those details can be important to your student's defense. A skilled and experienced attorney advisor can use Oregon's administrative rules to effectively challenge a potential disciplinary placement. Oregon Administrative Rule 581-022-2505 provides that a school district may place a student in public or private alternative education only when:

  • the student resides in the district and the district has legal responsibility for the student's education;
  • the district has assessed the student's needs after consulting with the parent or guardian;
  • the district determines that the student is not benefiting, has not benefited, or will not benefit from attendance in the traditional high school program;
  • the alternative program will best serve the student within local and state academic standards; and
  • placement in the alternative program meets the student's individualized education plan.

Example Oregon Alternative High Schools

Oregon has alternative high schools across the state, even if those alternative programs may not be close to your home or your student's traditional high school. They include Portland's Alliance High School and Albina Youth Opportunity School, Gresham's Centennial Learning Center and Alpha High School, Beaverton's Blue Mountain Alternative High School, Albany's Options School, Cottage Grove's Al Kennedy Alternative High School, Eagle Point's Connections Alternative High School, and Medford's Central High School. Some of the schools assume a special focus, like Gresham's Alpha High School focusing on school-to-work transitions. Some of the schools work more closely with agencies, nonprofits, or employers. And some of the schools serve students who are in juvenile detention.

Oregon Alternative High School Criticism

Education advocates rightly criticize Oregon's approximately fifty alternative education programs for high dropout rates. A secretary of state audit of those programs found that although the programs enroll only ten percent of Oregon high school students, the programs account for fifty percent of high school dropouts. The graduation rate of Oregon's alternative education programs is one of the lowest in the country. A media report in The Oregonian summarizing the audit found the programs' low performance astounding. Although Oregon's alternative programs enroll about 19,000 students, nearly half of those students are in programs that do not have the accountability of the state's traditional high school programs. Students, parents, and education advocates have often seen alternative programs as disorganized, excessively lax, and even loosey-goosey, explaining in part their disastrous dropout results. That's why you and your student should avoid disciplinary placement if possible. National school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended hundreds of students nationwide against disciplinary charges. Retain attorney advisor Lento to help your student avoid disciplinary placement in an Oregon alternative high school.

Oregon High School Disciplinary Procedures

Oregon high schools generally offer the procedures necessary to raise effective challenges to disciplinary placement. With skilled and experienced attorney advisor representation, disciplinary procedures can protect students from unfair disciplinary placement. Oregon high schools, like high schools elsewhere, must provide due process to students whom the school intends to suspend for more than ten days. In Oregon's third-largest city, for example, the Eugene Public Schools maintain a Student Rights & Responsibilities Handbook promising protective procedures in the form of an in-person hearing for any exclusion from school exceeding ten days. The handbook reassures parents that "[a]ll students are entitled to due process as it relates to discipline. Fair treatment of all students is essential and expected. Students are protected from arbitrary and unreasonable decisions. All decisions affecting students must be based on careful and reasoned investigations of the facts and must be consistent in the application of rules and regulations. All students will be informed of the school rules and procedures by which schools are governed and the process by which discipline will be applied." An in-person hearing like the one Eugene Public Schools offer ensures that your student gets to tell your student's side of the story.

Invoking Oregon High School Disciplinary Procedures

Invoking disciplinary procedures can be the key to your student's defense. A student facing disciplinary charges, or the student's concerned parent or guardian, must generally invoke procedures. It's not enough to stand back and let the school proceed. If you ignore the disciplinary charges while assuming the school will do the right thing, the school may construe your silence and inaction as your agreement to the charges. You and your student may default to the charges, losing important rights. Instead, retain national high school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to timely, firmly, and sensitively invoke the school's procedures. When attorney advisor Lento appears on your student's behalf, communicating with school officials, those officials will afford your student every procedural right and protection. Don't risk missing the benefit of protective procedures. Retain the premier help your student needs and deserves.

Appeal of Oregon High School Discipline

If your student's high school goes ahead with a suspension despite your effort to oppose discipline at a conference or hearing, you and your student likely have an appeal available. An appeal takes the matter before a higher-level official for a second chance at a fair and favorable outcome. In Oregon's second-largest city, for example, the Salem Keizer Public Schools maintain a Student Rights & Responsibilities Handbook authorizing parents to appeal the high school's suspension to the district superintendent. The parent must act, though, within two school days. If the superintendent confirms the suspension, the parent may appeal the suspension again to the school district's board. You can see that appeals take the matter out of the hands of local school officials who may be too involved in the matter, with their own interests, to treat the accused student fairly. Superintendents and boards can take a broader view of your student's matter, considering in a more positive and balanced fashion both the school's interests and the interests of your student. Don't miss your opportunity to appeal your student's suspension. Retain national school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento for your student's winning appeal.

Special Relief from Oregon Disciplinary Placement

Don't give up if you have already exhausted all conferences, hearings, and appeals without success, and your student seems headed for Oregon alternative disciplinary education. Special relief may be available to your student through the school district's oversight channels. School districts often have a general counsel's office, legal services department, outside retained counsel, or ombuds office to ensure that the district complies with law, rule, and regulation. National school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully negotiated special relief for suspended and expelled students through these oversight channels. Attorney advisor Lento's winning defense of hundreds of students nationwide has earned him a national reputation and network among school lawyers and other oversight officials. Let attorney advisor Lento put his reputation and relationships to work for your student, seeking special relief from alternative education placement. Your student's traditional high school graduation and the future that depends on it are worth retaining premier counsel.

Oregon Alternative Education Statistics

Oregon's Statewide Annual Report Card shows that most students in alternative education programs attend a program in their own public school district. Well over ten thousand Oregon students attend a public alternative education program in their own district. But nearly one thousand Oregon students instead attend a private alternative education program. Most of the services that public and private alternative education programs provide have to do with correcting at-risk behaviors, whether drug or alcohol addiction, violent tendencies, depression and suicidal thoughts, truancy, or the like, and remediating academic deficiencies. Some of the services, though, go to pregnant and parenting teens in the alternative programs. Doubtless, those services are necessary and helpful. But the number and severity of student problems in Oregon alternative schools makes success a challenging proposition. An Oregon Capital Chronicle media report indicates that an alternative education school, Southern Oregon Success Academy, had the lowest graduation rate in the state, graduating just one of its forty-eight seniors. That two-percent graduate rate doesn't sound like success.

Harm from Oregon High School Disciplinary Placement

Alternative education can work for some students. Statistics indicate that it doesn't work for a lot of students. The Oregon Leadership Network published a senior education researcher's blog concluding, "Vast research and an emerging national consensus recognize that school exclusion policies often do more harm than good. Not only do these practices fail to make schools safer, but they also lead to academic failure, disengagement, dropout, and criminal justice involvement." Removing a high school student from the traditional high school in favor of alternative disciplinary placement creates several problems. One, it removes the student's instructional structure of class attendance, class assignments, and teacher accountability. Scholarship indicates that alternative schools fail to consistently provide equivalent instruction. Two, it removes the student's peer accountability and support, isolating the student from the relationships that motivate the student to participate. Three, it bars the student from the co-curricular and extracurricular activities that are the reward for continued studies. And four, it can eliminate or undermine the support of teachers, counselors, administrators, coaches, mentors, and even family members invested in the student's traditional high school education.

Negotiating Oregon School Disciplinary Charge Resolutions

Invoking Oregon high school disciplinary procedures while taking all available appeals can be the key to a winning defense. But at the same time, skilled and experienced attorney advisor representation can lead to a prompt negotiated resolution. When you retain national school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento, his communications with school disciplinary officials will be firm but sensitive to the opportunity for a favorable compromise resolution. From his vast experience in school disciplinary matters, attorney advisor Lento knows what high school officials can and will generally accept. Attorney advisor Lento knows how to structure and advocate proposals for schedule and assignment adjustments, tutoring, counseling, and other services to show the school that your student can meet the school's behavioral and academic standards. Informal negotiation is often the key to a prompt, favorable outcome that preserves your student's traditional high school placement.

A Future on the Line

Don't make the mistake of underestimating what your Oregon high school student has on the line when facing high school disciplinary charges and the prospect of an alternative disciplinary placement. Graduation from the traditional high school is the foundation for future education, vocational training, licensing or certification, jobs, and careers. Your student deserves more than a general equivalency diploma (GED) or diploma from an alternative disciplinary program or reform school. Those are not reliable foundations for future success. Disciplinary placement can close doors to colleges, universities, and vocational training, costing your student licenses and certifications, and even jobs and careers. The social, emotional, psychological, and other developmental impacts of school removal and disciplinary placement can also loom large. Now is the time to stand and fight for your student's future.

Premier school discipline defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team are available for your Oregon high school student's disciplinary defense. Defend and defeat alternative high school disciplinary placement. 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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