High School Disciplinary Violations - Verbal Abuse of Teacher/Staff

When you're in high school, you may or may not be thinking of the long-term implications of your behavior in school. The importance of academic success is clearly correlated to one's future insofar as it impacts college acceptance. However, how frequently do you consider the impact of behavioral actions on your future? While it may seem easy to ignore or downplay, the truth is that high school disciplinary violations can gravely affect your future if they are not taken seriously. One of the common disciplinary violations is the verbal abuse of a teacher or staff member. If your child has been accused of verbally abusing a faculty or staff member at their high school, it's wise to consider speaking with legal counsel prior to responding to any of the allegations.

To ensure that you're adequately prepared to respond to this serious accusation, in this article, we'll review your student's rights, what an allegation of verbal abuse is and its potential impact, and how an attorney-advisor by your side can protect your loved one's future.

What Constitutes a High School Misconduct Violation?

In general, each high school will have its own parameters around what falls under the category of a misconduct violation or a disciplinary violation. Whether the school is private or public, a good place to begin is in the school's handbook or code of conduct.

The code of conduct will outline the expected standards of behavior for all members of a school's community, from teachers to parents, from staff to students, and volunteers, and more. Frequently, codes of conduct specify potential disciplinary violations and the punishments that might accompany such violations.

What are Common Examples of High School Disciplinary Violations?

Although each high school will derive its own rules and standards, there are some general behaviors that often appear, regardless of whether a school is public or private, or urban, suburban, or rural.

  • Vandalism or other property destruction
  • Online misbehavior (i.e., “cyberbullying”)
  • Academic dishonesty (such as plagiarism)
  • Drug possession or use
  • Bullying, both in-person and online
  • Harassment of all types: verbal, physical, sexual
  • Tardiness and Skipping Classes (Truancy)
  • Uttering threats
  • Physical assault
  • Other suspected criminal behavior

This list is not exhaustive, and it's important to note that many schools may include a phrase such as “this list is incomplete, and any behavior deemed in conflict with the code of conduct will be pursued” or something similar. The vague nature of this phrase leaves room for interpretation in the hands of the administration. Subsequently, the disciplinary response may be disproportionate to the alleged offense.

What Falls Under Verbal Abuse of A Teacher Or Staff Member?

In 2020, the Department of Education revealed that 20% of public school teachers were victims of verbal abuse and 6% of the schools reported verbal abuse.

Merriam-Webster defines verbal abuse as “harsh and insulting language directed at a person.” Additionally, verbal abuse is sometimes referred to as emotional abuse, which leaves the door wide open for interpretation. If something a person says has an emotional impact on an individual, does that mean it is verbal abuse?

In the classroom, students may feel passionate about a topic being taught or discussed, and occasionally that might lead to an emphatic statement. If the teacher takes offense, it could be considered verbal abuse, depending on the school's code of conduct and the teacher's perspective.

Some examples of actions that might be construed as verbal abuse include:

  • Name-calling;
  • Abusive or explosive anger;
  • Accusatory or blaming language;
  • Judging or criticizing the individual;
  • Making threats to someone
  • Insulting comments, whether they're about a person's gender, ideas, religion, race, etc

The incredibly subjective nature of what constitutes verbal abuse means that it's important to take very seriously. If your student reveals to you that a teacher has accused them of verbal abuse, you should document the date and time and any pertinent details. If the accusations continue, be certain to continue to keep track of the interactions. In situations where the school chooses to proceed with disciplinary action, a record of the interactions from when they were fresh is invaluable.

What Rights Does Your High School Student Have?

Since most high school students are minors, it's critical that adults get involved if their students have been accused of any sort of disciplinary violation. Otherwise, the violation (and punishment) could impact a student's future academic career. It can be challenging, if you're not a legal professional, to understand exactly what rights your loved one has.

Depending on the type of disciplinary violation that occurs, your student's rights will vary. The 1975 Goss v. Lopez ruling of the Supreme Court found that students have a right to due process if their punishment would include removal from the school for an extended range of time.

More specifically, if a suspension is ten days or less, schools must hold an informal hearing wherein students can offer their version of what took place. If the suspension time is going to exceed ten days, then a formal process must occur.

If the charge is not as serious, your student will still have rights under the Supreme Court ruling. Some of these rights are:

  • to see a show of proof of the charges against them;
  • to be notified of the exact charge that they are facing;
  • to be told the potential punishment;
  • the right to informally defend themselves against any involved authority figures.

What Is the Impact Of A High School Disciplinary Violation?

Across the nation, each state has its own laws when it comes to the penalties a school may impose on a student who engages in verbal abuse of a staff or faculty member.

There are immediate consequences, such as a punishment, as a result of high school disciplinary violations. However, that is not what is most concerning.

A study conducted by the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) found that more than 3 million children are suspended annually from schools, and over 100,000 are expelled. A gap in studies can negatively impact one's ability to prepare for college, and the same study found that 55% of high schools disclose disciplinary records to colleges and universities when students request transcripts and fill out applications. Not only is that information provided, but the study also found that 89% of colleges and universities make their decisions with these records in mind.

Of the universities and colleges that the study included, only 25% of those schools had any written policy that spoke to how exactly, high school discipline records should impact the admissions process. Clearly, then, any disciplinary violations that occur have serious long-term repercussions that should not be underestimated.

The collateral consequences that unfold after a disciplinary violation are the ones that you should be concerned about for your student. Especially with your student working hard toward their future, you don't want the hard work to be derailed.

What Are Potential Punishments If Your Child Is Accused of Disciplinary Violations?

Each high school sets its own parameters for differing types of disciplinary violations, and so you'll want to consult the school's handbook or code of conduct for particulars. There are several common punishments, however. Let's take a look at those.

  • Ban from Extracurriculars: In some instances, a school may determine that the best course of action is to prohibit a student from participating in activities beyond coursework. This might include sports teams, clubs, or any other after-school activities. If your student expects to receive college scholarship money for their extracurriculars, this could dampen their opportunities.
  • Detention: Many of us are already familiar with detention—an instance where a teacher holds you in a classroom during lunch, after school, before school, or even during a free period. Occasionally students will be given specific tasks to complete during this time, and their freedom depends on whether or not they finish the aforementioned task.
  • Extra Assignments: Depending on the nature of the verbal abuse, a teacher or administrator may assign an essay or another critical-thinking assignment about the offense.
  • Exclusion from the Class: If the verbal abuse is serious enough, a high school may prohibit a student from attending the class where the abuse took place. This could result in an incomplete or the need to participate in summer school.
  • Probation: Probation is exactly what it sounds like: your student is being tested and watched for further violations. The expectation is that the student be on their best behavior. Any violations could result in even more serious consequences than the original instance of verbal abuse.
  • Short-term suspension: When suspension occurs, your student must stay home from school. They are not usually allowed on the campus of the school at all, and if seen, can get in further trouble. Short-term suspensions could be as long as a few days or as short as half a day.
  • Long-term suspension: A long-term suspension is an extended amount of time where a student is prohibited from attending school. In some cases, students are not allowed to make up any work that is missed during this time—so not only do they miss the instruction, but they also receive zeros on any assignments during that time. Long-term suspensions can last up to several weeks, depending on how severely the school perceives the offense.
  • Expulsion: Apart from criminal charges, an expulsion is perhaps the most serious of all punishments for any disciplinary violations. If a student is expelled from the school, they are no longer able to attend the institution. Additionally, if their school is part of a consortium or a county public school system, they may be ineligible to attend those schools as well.
  • Criminal Charges: Although it is uncommon, a high school may decide to pursue criminal charges against a student. In this circumstance, it's imperative that your student not discuss the incident with anyone at the school. They should not discuss it with their friends, teachers, or staff. Additionally, they should refuse to speak with police or any on-campus law enforcement, security, or public safety.

What Are Some Ways an Attorney-Advisor Can Help If Accused of Verbal Abuse of A Teacher Or Staff Member?

Although some states and schools will not allow students to have an attorney physically present at a disciplinary hearing—whether formal or informal—working with an attorney-advisor can be invaluable.

An expert attorney-advisor who's worked with high school disciplinary violations before will be able to help you navigate the hearing process and plan for what your student will say in the hearing. Depending on the alleged verbal abuse instance, an attorney-advisor can recommend how to best proceed and how to build a defense.

Additionally, an attorney-advisor can help if you are concerned that your student may have been the victim of a racially-motivated accusation. If that's the case, it's imperative that you immediately find assistance. You should be able to focus your energy and attention on the long-term impact on your child. An attorney-advisor can fight on your behalf so that you don't have to worry about the implications at the high school.

Contact An Experienced Attorney-Advisor Today

The rate of incidence of high school disciplinary violations has increased exponentially since the 90s, and it is still unclear whether or not the disciplinary actions are merited. When your son or daughter faces an accusation of verbally abusing a teacher or staff member, it's important that you treat the allegation with seriousness and care. By working with a passionate and dedicated attorney-advisor, you can ensure that your child's future is protected. Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento has helped numerous families across the nation as they navigated complex high school disciplinary violation circumstances. He brings heart to every case he takes on and fights for his clients' rights and interests until the final bell rings. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 or reach out online.

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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