The Law of Colorado Public School Discipline — Part 3

Under C.R.S. 22-133-105(3)(a), once a student has been suspended, the school must immediately inform the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) and must explain the grounds for the suspension. The school also must explain how long the suspension will be for and a time for the parent(s) or guardian(s) to come in to review the suspension. If the student is under 18, after the student has been suspended, he or she must either be released to a parent/guardian, or receive authorization from such a person to send the student home. During the period of the suspension, the student is not allowed to be on school grounds or any other school district property. He or she is not allowed to participate in school events, for example, or attend them as a spectator.

After the student's period of suspension ends, he or she generally will still not be readmitted until there has been a reinstatement conference with school officials, the student and his or her parent(s). At this conference, the school generally will present the student with a behavior contract as a condition of returning to school. Remember, however, that the parent does not necessarily have to sign the behavior contract. The statute, C.R.S. 22-33-105(3)(b)(II) states that a conference "shall address whether there is a need to develop a remedial discipline plan (e.g. behavior contract) for the pupil in an effort to prevent further disciplinary action." However, the statute doesn't say anything about such a plan being required before the student may return to school. Moreover, the school is not allowed to continue to keep the student out of school if the parent refuses to attend a reinstatement conference. Basically, a five-day suspension, for example, has to be a five-day suspension, and the student cannot be further punished and kept out of the school because a parent refuses to show up for a meeting. This is covered in C.R.S. 22-33-105(3)(d)(II).

Under C.R.S. 22-33-105(3)(c), a student suspended for 10 days or less shall receive an informal hearing with a school official. Such an informal hearing doesn't require much. Its requirements are met if, for example, a dean or assistance principal simply meets with the student and his or her parent(s) and informs them of the reasons for the suspension. If a student is suspended for 10 days, then he or she must be "given the opportunity to request a review of the suspension before an appropriate official of the school district." Such a person varies from district to district.

C.R.S. 22-33-105(3)(d)(III) states that a school must "provide an opportunity for a pupil to make up school work during the period of suspension for full or partial academic credit to the extent possible." The only way this can be done is if the school actually provides the student with school work during his or her period of suspension. If it does not, then it is effectively denying the student a public education and is turning a disciplinary consequence into an academic one, too. That is absolutely not the intent of the statute.

One thing that C.R.S. 22-33-105(4) requires is that every school district establish an alternative to suspension by requiring the parent of a student to attend class with the student in lieu of a suspension. It's an open question, however, as to whether the school district must actually present parental attendance as an alternative to suspension, or whether all the district has to do is have such a policy on the books. However, the argument can be made that an alternative to suspension should be mandatory, or the district would simply have a meaningless policy that it has no intention of following.