Out-of-School Suspension: Definition & Rules

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

We all know someone who has been suspended from school before. What you might not know are the laws, offenses, and outcomes of such a suspension, and the effect it can have on the future of the suspended child.

Out-of-School Suspension: Definition

Anyone who has ever been suspended knows how mortifying it is. But newer studies have shown that, not only is it embarrassing for the child, it can have long-term effects on his or her academic progress. This lesson will focus on the definition and rules surrounding out-of-school suspension.

Out-of-school suspension is defined as a temporary, complete exclusion from school and activities. In other words, a student is banned from being on school property. A typical out-of-school suspension lasts a few days, though it can range from a few hours to weeks long. This penalty is one of the most severe a school district can enforce and stops short only of expulsion, or being completely kicked out.

Laws about out-of-school suspension

All you need to do is a Google search, and you'll find thousands of results, and differing laws, about out-of-school suspension. Each state has its own law, and many of the districts within that state have clarified it. What most laws have in common is that the length of such a suspension is limited, usually to ten days or two weeks, and that after a certain amount of time, a student needs to be offered a chance to appeal the sentence, an alternative education, or be completely expelled, depending on the severity of the offense.

What sort of offenses warrant an out-of-school suspension?

Like the laws about out-of-school suspension, the offenses that warrant it vary. But among the offenses that will likely land a student in out of school suspension are weapons, bullying, drug offenses, extreme disrespect or disregard for the safety of others, and repeated, smaller offenses.

Zero-Tolerance Policies

In 1994, the U.S. passed the Gun-Free Schools Act. This brought up the idea of zero-tolerance, or strict punishments without the possibility of appeal. Zero-tolerance started with weapons, but today can apply to other undesirable behaviors in school, including drug offenses and fighting. Zero-tolerance policies specify the minimum length of an out-of-school suspension, which is often ten days or longer, if one of the stated offenses occurs.

Effect on the child and learning

Unfortunately, the children often suspended are those who need their classroom education the most. Studies have shown that students who are male, Hispanic, or black are more likely to be suspended than their counterparts. However, these are the same students who perform behind their peers on state-wide assessments.

In addition, students who are on an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, are those most likely to be suspended. However, an out-of-school suspension can put the school at risk of not meeting that student's mandated, special education requirements.

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