Each school year, the commissioner of education finds that school districts have failed to provide due process or made other legal errors in connection with out-of-school suspensions of students lasting more than five days. These are called “long-term” suspensions, and the due process method that school districts must use is commonly termed a “superintendent’s suspension hearing.”
This article will describe common errors in long-term student suspensions and recommend best practices for school districts.
[Editor’s Note: For guidance on suspensions of five days or less, see “How to avoid common errors in handling short-term student suspensions,” in the August 13, 2018 issue of On Board or send an email to editor@ nyssba.org for a PDF copy.]
Imposition of long-term suspensions is governed by Education Law section 3214, which provides that no student shall be suspended in excess of fi ve school days unless such student has had an opportunity for a fair hearing before the superintendent of schools or a designee, upon reasonable notice. At the meeting, the student may be represented by counsel, has the right to cross-examine witnesses and the right to present witnesses and other evidence.
Three common procedural errors made by school districts are: (1) failing to provide notice of the hearing in a timely manner; (2) not being specific enough in the notice of charges to inform the student of the incident which led to the hearing; and (3) submitting witness statements instead of live testimony at a hearing.