Recently in School Hearings Category

March 18, 2011

College Students in Washington, DC Fear Being Arrested and Charged for Making too Much Noise

Silence Board.jpgThe Washington, DC City Counsel has enacted legislation known as the "Disorderly Conduct Amendment Act of 2010." This law took effect February 1, 2011, and makes the following conduct illegal: "unreasonably loud noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. that is likely to annoy or disturb one or more other persons in their residences." The maximum penalty for being convicted of this disorderly conduct charge is up to 90 days in jail and up to a $300 fine. This makes the offense a Washington, DC misdemeanor.

According to an interesting article by Josh Brown of the Washington Times, the DC Student Alliance has taken issue with the new law. The group consists of student leaders from 15 colleges and universities in the area. The group is calling the law too vague and disagrees with the severity of the penalty. There is no set standard to what "unreasonably loud" means and this has students worried.

As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who also handles school discipline cases, I cannot stress enough the importance of raising a good defense at a college or university hearing. It is common for criminal charges that stem from off-campus incidents to result in an academic termination hearing on campus. Many school policies allow for this. A school discipline hearing is a serious matter that is treated similar to a criminal hearing. The school will read the alleged facts, take statements from witnesses and those impacted by the alleged offense, and allow the student-defendant to make a statement. The proceedings are often recorded similar to a court case. The student has a right to have an attorney represent him or her at this hearing. There are many ways this can help.

A DC school discipline attorney can challenge the procedure the school is required to follow, cross-examine witnesses testifying against the student, and most importantly, protect the student from having his or her Fifth Amendment rights compromised. While the school hearing is not a criminal case, anything the student says may be admissible against them later in court.

February 4, 2011

On School Discipline and Expulsion in Washington, DC

chalkboard.jpgIn Washington, DC, children are constitutionally entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). When a student attending a District of Columbia Public School (DCPS), or Public Charter School, gets into trouble in school by disobeying school rules or committing a crime, the school can take a variety of steps. The regulations place different types of violations into one of five tiers, depending on how serious they are. A tier one violation may be not listening to the teacher. A tier five violation involves the student committing a crime that involves the police or engaging in violent behavior.

For a minor violation, such as failing to obey a teacher, the school will usually give a verbal warning. The next step is to give a written warning in the student's file. If the student still fails to comply, the school will refer the student to the administrator. For a more serious violation, the police may be called and the student will be immediately referred to the administrator.

Once the student has been referred to the administrator, the student can be placed in detention, in-school suspension, out of school suspension, or possibly as a last resort, expelled. However, here is where the problems arise. The school is not allowed to kick the student out of school until they have a hearing to determine if the conduct actually occurred and if the suspension is appropriate. The only time they are allowed to remove the child from school before this hearing is with a tier five violation or a serious threat of harm to the school if the child remains. The schools generally do not follow this rule and kick the student out anyway. You are allowed to have a lawyer who handles school discipline cases at your child's hearing, and from what I have seen, it goes a long way in helping ensure the school officials follow the rules.

If the student has been diagnosed with, or is suspecting of having a disability, the student is entitled to an Individualized Education Program (IEP). When the student is charged with a violation, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires the school to hold a manifestation hearing before a disciplinary hearing. A manifestation hearing determines if the student's behavior was a result of their disability. If so, the student generally cannot be disciplined but will rather have their IEP reexamined.

November 12, 2010

Former Students Suspected of Theft of Computers from Washington, DC Metro Area School

632763_computers (1).jpgAccording to an article in the Baltimore Sun, ex-students are suspected of stealing $8,460 worth of computer equipment from Purpose & Potential Christian Arts Academy. These computers were recently purchased with a state grant. School officials allege that the students also tried to steal a $2,000 electronic keyboard but left it in the hallway of the DC Metro area school. School administrators have not yet said why they suspect these particular former students of committing this crime.

While I have a Washington, DC criminal defense firm, I have also chosen to represent students in administrative hearings that involve discipline and expulsion from schools and universities. I find that many students accused of violating school policy do not take advantage of their right to have an attorney represent them in these hearings. It can often be the difference between being expelled and being able to continue their studies.

School disciplinary hearings are similar to criminal proceedings. When a student is accused of violating school rules for reasons such as fighting, truancy, bringing weapons (including toy guns) into school, and numerous other violations, they are entitled to a hearing under the due process laws of the United States. They may be temporarily suspended immediately, but the school administration is required to give the students notice and opportunity to defend themselves at a hearing before more serious action is taken. These hearings are conducted much like a criminal trial. The school officials present the facts of their allegations before a review board which may consist of school board officials or a panel of other students in the case of a college or university. The student has an opportunity to call witnesses and introduce evidence to assist in their defense. The proceeding is usually recorded by a court reporter so that it can be appealed at a later time.

While all of these formalities can be very helpful to the student facing being suspended from school or expelled, they are very rarely taken advantage of by the student. Most parents and students don't realize how much they need an experienced Washington, DC attorney to assist in the process. With an experienced defense attorney, students can receive a fair hearing and have a much better chance at getting favorable results and being able to continue their education and get on with their lives.