Students and their parents are often surprised when a disciplinary issue—sometimes the first the student has ever experienced—suddenly becomes grounds for long-term suspension or even expulsion. Schools can discipline students for many behaviors: disrupting the learning environment, violating the law (sometimes even off campus) or even misusing school electronic devices. If an alleged incident violates the school’s code of conduct, the administration has a lot of leeway in determining what happens next: warnings, detention, in-school suspension, suspension or expulsion.
At Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm, we regularly work with teens and their families to represent their interests at school tribunals or disciplinary hearings. These hearings move fast, so it’s important to be prepared with evidence and alternatives for the tribunal members to consider. When the allegations for a tribunal hearing include violations of the law, what happens
What to expect at a school tribunal
After a disciplinary incident, schools typically move quickly to suspend the student in question as they sort out what happened and what approach to take. In some counties,, schools will also ask parents to sign a waiver of a tribunal hearing and agree to a specific disciplinary action. Signing this waiver accepts whatever discipline is handed down, so be cautious before agreeing to anything.
If the administrators pursue a suspension longer than 10 days, Georgia law guarantees the student a hearing before a tribunal. If the issue involves an assault against a school employee, the employee can also request a hearing, even if the suspension won’t be more than 10 days. In many instances, it makes sense for the student to have a school tribunal lawyer representing his or her interests.
At the tribunal, the school presents its side of the story first, calling witnesses and producing evidence. The student can question witnesses, call his or her own and ask supportive adults—like a coach, pastor or scout leader—to speak. The entire event is recorded with notes or electronically.
The school has to issue its decision within 10 days of the tribunal, though most decisions are made immediately after the hearing is complete. If the student isn’t satisfied with the result, he or she may appeal to the school board, and, from there, to the state school board, as well as to the courts. At each step, there is a tight timeline, making it all the more important to work with a school tribunal lawyer who knows how to protect your child’s interests.
Understanding your school’s code of conduct
Because school tribunals aren’t court proceedings, parents sometimes underestimate them, though they can result in academic probation, the loss of valuable classroom time and a transfer to an alternative school.
As soon as the school notifies the parent that the student is in trouble, it’s smart to begin gathering information, finding out who else may have been involved and discussing what alternatives there are to suspension. If a school is definitively seeking a tribunal, it must be scheduled within 10 days. This is why it is crucial to move quickly. It is also important to make sure your student has a way to keep up with school work in the meantime.
Additionally, students don’t always have a great sense of what they can get in trouble for. Start by reading the student handbook or code of conduct. In the Cherokee County school district (as well as many others), for example, “school property” may include a bus stop, any location where a school event or activity takes place or a vehicle used for a school activity. In Cobb County, a student’s own automobile parked in the school lot is considered school property for code of conduct purposes.
The use of school computers and school networks also exposes students to potential conduct issues, even if they’re partaking in virtual school from their own home.
Schools are often also quite strict regarding criminal activities that take place off campus. In Cherokee, according to the handbook, students may be expelled if they’re charged with a felony, or a crime that would be considered a felony if it were in an adult court.
For young adults, colleges function similarly. With most of school life taking place on campus, it can be incredibly easy for students to land in hot water.
Call our team at 770-720-6336 to schedule an initial consultation with a school tribunal lawyer on our team.
Violating school policies can result in academic probation, suspension or expulsion. Some cases are also referred to juvenile, state, or superior court. Because these situations move fast, and because your student’s academic future hangs in the balance, it’s important to contact an attorney as soon as possible. At Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm, we’ll gather evidence to support your teen, prepare for the hearing and form a foundation to challenge the disciplinary actions.
“Paul has helped us twice over the past three years. Once was a school tribunal issue in 2010, and in 2013, he represented our teenage son on a traffic violation. In both instances we thought Paul did an outstanding job to minimize the outcomes. He was always responsive and available as we had questions in both situations. We highly recommend him.” – J.G., parent
At Ghanouni Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm, we specialize in protecting the futures of teens and young adults, both in court and in tribunal situations. Please call our office today at 770-720-6336 to arrange an initial consultation.
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If you’re facing a criminal charge and are concerned about the impact on your life, contact us today and schedule a complimentary Defense Strategy Meeting.