Know Your Rights: School Discipline

Students have rights when it comes to when and how they can be disciplined for certain behaviors. Schools have different rules about what students can be suspended for and how long. Your school’s code of conduct should have all these rules and be available online. According to Virginia law, students may be suspended or expelled from attendance at school for sufficient cause.  

Some additional protections and processes exist for students with disabilities. You can learn more about those here. 

It also is important to note that some incidents that happen in school may (and sometimes are required to be) be reported law enforcement.

  • Short-term suspension:   
    • 10 consecutive school days or less  
  • Long-term suspension:  
    • 11-45 consecutive school days 
  • Expulsion: 
    • 365 calendar days 
  • Students cannot be suspended for truancy alone. 
  • Pre-K through 3d graders can be suspended for no more than 3 school days at a time, and not expelled, except under these circumstances. 
    • Physical harm or credible threat of physical harm, 
    • Possession of firearm and related objects 
    • Possession of drugs and related objects 
    • School board, superintendent, or designee finds presence of aggravating circumstances 
  • Generally, schools cannot suspend or expel students for behavior that takes place off of school grounds, even if it results in juvenile charges. 
    • HOWEVER, there is an exception for serious offenses. Students may be suspended for up to ten days for certain offenses if the offense involved an intentional injury to a student at the same school. 
  • The Principal is required to tell the child why they are proposing to discipline and give the child an opportunity to tell their side. 
  • Parents are entitled to notice of incident, proposed disciplinary action, and have the right to appeal. 
  • NOTE: Incidents at school can form the basis of juvenile or criminal charges and any written statements given in this process may be used in that proceeding. Be careful with written statements! 
  • Deadlines for appealing a disciplinary action may be very short, sometimes as little as three days after receipt of written notice! The length of time must be written in the code of student conduct. 
  • The decision to expel a student must be based on these factors: 
    • The nature and seriousness of the violation 
    • The degree of danger to the school community 
    • The student’s disciplinary history 
    • The availability and appropriateness of an alternate education placement or program 
    • The student’s age and grade level 
    • The results of any mental health, substance abuse, or special education assessments 
    • The students’ attendance and academic records 
    • Other matters that the superintendent or designee deems appropriate 
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