Each school year, the state commissioner of education determines that some school districts have failed to adhere to mandatory procedures regarding short-term out-of-school suspensions. A review of commissioner’s decisions reveals that school districts tend to repeat the same procedural mistakes, resulting in the nullification or expungement of otherwise justifiable penalties. This article will describe some common errors and recommend best practices for administrators.
Imposition of short-term suspensions is governed by Education Law section 3214, which provides that a building principal (or the board of education or superintendent of schools) has the authority to suspend a student for up to five school days, so long as the school district provides the parent and student with notice of the charged misconduct and an opportunity for an informal conference with the principal before a final decision is made regarding the proposed suspension.
[To suspend a student for more than five school days – commonly known as a “long-term suspension” – the district must provide the student must with a “fair hearing” before the superintendent of schools or a designee. This includes the right to be represented by counsel, the ability to present evidence and testimony, cross-examine witnesses, etc. Long-term suspensions are not addressed in this article.]