Student rights and responsibilities, discipline and due process

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It is Vancouver Public Schools’ mission to help each student “become a competent, responsible and compassionate citizen.” We have high expectations for all our students in both academic achievement and behavior. We believe that with clear expectations, all students can be successful.

Therefore, it is essential that we provide inviting, culturally respectful and emotionally safe learning environments for all students. Vancouver Public Schools has adopted the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports model to guide behavior and interventions. Within PBIS, there is a continuum of intervention levels that can address the needs of all students.

Download hearing request form

Hearing request form

Complete the hearing request form if your student has been expelled from school.
Download hearing request form

It is important for students to recognize that student conduct impacts the learning and working environment of the classroom and school community. While every effort will be made by school officials to provide interventions for inappropriate behaviors, student conduct that poses a safety risk or that falls within behaviors outlined in the zero-tolerance policy (Regulation 5146.1) will result in suspension or expulsion from school in accordance with state law and due process.

Discipline definitions and due process rights

Discipline: Discipline is all forms of corrective action or punishment other than suspension or expulsion. Discipline can include being removed from class for the remainder of a class period or restriction from noneducational activities such as recess, field trips, transportation or sports. Common examples of discipline also include detention, Saturday School, loss of privileges or special assignments (WAC392-400-205).

Suspension: A suspension is a restriction from attending school or any portion of a student’s school program (such as a single course) for a stated period of time. Examples: a three-day suspension from school or a five-day suspension from shop class.

  • Short-term suspensions are suspensions that last up to 10 consecutive school days.
  • Long-term suspensions are suspensions that are more than 10 consecutive school days.
  • In-school (in-house) suspensions are temporary removals from the regular classroom for disciplinary purposes where the student remains under direct supervision of school personnel.

Expulsion: An expulsion is a denial of attendance from any class or subject or for the student’s full schedule of classes for no longer than one calendar year unless an application for readmission is granted.

Emergency removal: An emergency removal (see WAC 392-400-290) permits a student to be immediately removed from a class or activity when there is good and sufficient reason to believe that the student’s presence poses an immediate and continuing danger or a continuing threat of substantial disruption. This is a short-term action which can continue until the danger or threat ceases, or the principal or a designated school authority acts to impose discipline, a short-term suspension, a long-term suspension or an expulsion or an emergency expulsion

Emergency expulsion: An emergency expulsion is a denial of attendance for no more than 10 days, imposed only while a student poses a continuing danger or continuing risk of substantial disruption. An emergency expulsion must end or be converted to another form of corrective action within that 10-day period.

The due process rules vary for different levels of discipline and other corrective actions.

Discipline grievances: This applies to discipline other than a suspension or expulsion. When a student, parent or guardian disagrees with the discipline imposed by a school employee, they have a right to an informal conference with the school principal (or other designated person). During the meeting, the principal may question any person involved; the student, parent or guardian may also question the employee who imposed the discipline. If the grievance is not resolved, a written or oral appeal may be made to the school district superintendent (or other designated person) within two business days. If the grievance is not resolved at the superintendent level, a written or oral appeal may be made to the board of directors at the next regular meeting if notice is given within two business days. Unless the principal decides to delay the disciplinary action, it may be imposed during the appeal process.

Due process for short-term suspensions: State law authorizes the use of informal due process for short-term suspensions. This means the principal (or other designated person) must have a conference with the student and explain the alleged violation of the rules, the evidence supporting the allegations and the proposed corrective action or punishment. The student must be given an opportunity to present his or her explanation. When the suspension exceeds one calendar day, the parent or guardian must be notified of the reason for the suspension, the duration of the suspension and the right to appeal as provided in WAC 392-400-255.

Appeals for short-term suspensions: If the student or parent disagrees with a proposed short-term suspension, they have the right to an informal conference with the school principal to resolve the grievance. During the conference, the principal may question any person involved; the student, parent or guardian may also question the employee who imposed the discipline. If the grievance is not resolved, a written or oral appeal may be made to the school district superintendent (or other designated person) within two business days. If the grievance is not resolved at the superintendent level, a written or oral appeal may be made to the board of directors at the next regular meeting if notice is given within two business days. Unless the principal decides to delay the suspension, it may be imposed during the appeal process.

Due process for long-term suspensions and expulsions: Due process for long-term suspensions and expulsions is a more formal process. State law requires a school district to provide a written notice of an opportunity for an appeal hearing for long-term suspension or expulsion. The student or parent/guardian must request a hearing within three business days or the right to a hearing will be waived and the suspension/expulsion may be imposed. In most cases, if the student or parent request an appeal hearing, the student is entitled to remain in school until a decision is reached after the hearing (the common exception would be emergency expulsions).

Hearing process and requirements: The requirements for hearings are essentially the same for long-term suspensions and expulsions and can be found in WAC 392-400-265 and 392-400-280.

  • If a request for a hearing is received within three business days, the district must schedule a hearing to begin within three business days the request was received.
  • The student and the parent/guardian have the right, before the hearing, to inspect the evidence and any documents the district intends to introduce.
  • The student and the parent/guardian have the right to be represented by an attorney provide at their own expense. The district may allow a representative other than an attorney.
  • The student and the parent/guardian have the right to question and cross-examine witnesses of the district, unless there is evidence of good reason that the district should not produce a witness (generally for safety concerns).
  • The student and the parent/guardian have the right to present an explanation of the alleged misconduct and support their explanation through witnesses, introduction of documents or through other physical evidence.
  • The district employee assigned to present the district’s case has the right, before the hearing, to inspect any evidence the student or parent/guardian plans to introduce.
  • The hearing officer or persons hearing the case may not be a witness, and the guilt or innocence of the student must be determined entirely on the evidence presented in the hearing.
  • The hearing must be either tape-recorded or a verbatim record of the hearing must be made.
  • A written decision of the hearing officer(s) must be provided to the student and parent/guardian or their attorney. The decision may either uphold the long-term suspension or expulsion or may impose a lesser form or corrective action or punishment. A suspension or expulsion upheld by a hearing will commence.

Appeals: If a student or parent/guardian disagrees with the decision of a hearing officer(s), they may file a written request for appeal within three business days of receiving the decision. The district may, at its choosing, accept an oral request for appeal. An appeal may be heard by the board of directors, or by a school district disciplinary appeals council if established by the board. If a request for appeal is heard, the board of directors or appeals council must schedule a meeting within 10 business days. In most cases, the suspension or expulsion may be continued while an appeal is made to the board of directors or appeals council.

Readmission meetings are for students who have been expelled but 1) do not contest the facts of the student’s offense or the discipline and just want to get back into school to continue their education or 2) did not request an appeal hearing within the days and in doing so have waived their right to due process. Students requesting a readmission meeting do not have the right to return to school until after the meeting is held.
Schools are required to hold a re-engagement meeting for students who have been given a long-term suspension or expelled to discuss the student’s return to school. The meeting should be held within 20 days of the suspension or expulsion, but must be held not less than five days before the student returns to school.
Students who qualify for special education services can be disciplined under the same rules as all students, with the modifications listed below as required by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and relevant state laws.

Short-term suspensions or emergency expulsions: The general rules relating to school-based discipline or responses, short-term suspensions or emergency expulsions apply to students who qualify for special education services when the action taken or proposed does not exceed 10 consecutive school days, or when the action taken or proposed does not constitute a pattern of removal from the school.

Educational services do not have to be provided during the removal unless services are provided to students without disabilities.

Long-term suspensions or expulsions: If the recommended disciplinary action for a student who qualifies for special education services is a long-term suspension or expulsion, or if the removals from school constitute a pattern of removal that adds up to more than 10 days in the school year, a manifestation determination meeting must be held prior to imposing the disciplinary action but not later than 10 days after imposing the disciplinary action.

Manifestation determination meeting: A manifestation determination meeting is held to determine whether the student’s conduct is caused by or is the result of the student’s disability or whether the student’s conduct is the result of an inappropriate placement. The student’s regular individualized education plan, or IEP, team members should participate in the meeting.

If the conduct is not determined to be a manifestation of the student’s disability and is not the result of an inappropriate placement, the student may be disciplined like any other student, and the team should determine which educational services should be provided during the time of removal.

If the conduct is a manifestation of the student’s disability, an IEP meeting must be held to determine the services that should be offered in order to provide a free and appropriate public education.

If the conduct is determined to be the result of an inappropriate placement, an IEP meeting must be held to discuss alternative placements for the student.

Interim Alternative Educational Setting: A student who qualifies for special education may be placed in an interim alternative educational setting without a change of placement in the IEP or without a court order for 1) up to 10 days; or 2) up to 45 days if the student carries a gun or other dangerous weapon or sells, distributes illegal drugs on school property or on school-sponsored transportation or at a school function or causes severe injury to another person.

Behavior intervention plans: Behavior intervention plans must be established for students whose behavior negatively impacts their ability to reach their educational goals. The plan should prescribe specific disciplinary procedures for the student and may include removal from school for specified amounts of time as part of the IEP. Either school personnel or the parent may request a new IEP meeting and review of the behavior intervention plan if either finds that the plan is not satisfactory or is in need of revision.

Educational obligations to a student pending hearing: From the time a parent/guardian initiates a due process hearing through the appeal process, Vancouver Public Schools is required to provide educational services to a student who qualifies for special education, although those services may not be provided within the school setting.