School disciplinary proceedings in the State of Washington can occur at the k-12, private school, college, university, and graduate school levels. These proceedings are usually triggered by accusations of misconduct, crimes, and alleged violations of school rules and policies. These types of accusations can have a serious impact on your child's education and career prospects. Due to the fast-paced nature of disciplinary proceedings, it is of paramount importance you consult with an attorney at the earliest point possible in the disciplinary process.
Students have due process rights and protections in any public school disciplinary proceeding, including k-12, junior colleges and federally and state funded colleges and universities. If you are attending a public institution your due process rights require your school to notify you of your alleged misconduct and to hold a fair hearing during which you may present evidence and witnesses. Additional due process protections may be warranted depending on the severity of the accusations and punishment. However, if you are being investigated or disciplined by a private school or institution of higher learning, you may not be afforded the same due process rights and your rights will likely be governed by your school’s rules and regulations, which are codified in your school’s handbooks. These handbooks are considered contracts, and are binding on you, your parents, and your school’s faculty and staff.
If your child has a disability and is facing school discipline, he or she is entitled to additional protections under IDEA. This additional protection is known as a manifestation determination.
A manifestation determination follows school disciplinary actions resulting in a suspension of more than 10 days, expulsion, or a placement change. The IEP team must meet to determine whether the student’s misconduct was a “manifestation” of the student’s underlying disability.
The purpose of the manifestation determination is to determine if the behavior was a manifestation of the child’s disability.
If the team answers in the affirmative to this question then the IEP team must either: (1) conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA), and implement a behavioral intervention plan (BIP) for the child; or (2) if a BIP was previously developed, the team must modify the BIP to address the behavior; and return the child to the placement from which the child was removed unless the parent and school district agree otherwise.
If the IEP team determines the behavior was not a manifestation of the student's disability and the student's IEP was appropriate, then the student may be disciplined in the same manner as a student without a disability.