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Student Removals (Suspensions & Expulsions)

As a result of certain behavioral incidents, a student may subject to a disciplinary removal from school, such as a short-term or long-term suspension or an expulsion.  Prior to being suspended or expelled from school, a student has the right to be heard and to present their version of the event and/or facts.

For a complete explanation of the procedures for disciplinary removals, including the applicable state laws, can be found below.

Specific information related to disciplining students with disabilities, pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, can be found below.


Student Suspensions and Expulsions

Procedures for Short-term Suspension:

  1. Whenever an incident(s) occurs that may lead to a suspension, the Principal or his/her designee shall provide: oral or written notice of charges against the student, opportunity for the student to present his/her version of the relevant facts and, if the student denies the charges, an explanation of the evidence.
  2. Once a determination has been made to suspend a student, the student’s parent/guardian should be notified in person or by phone as soon as practicable. A letter confirming the suspension will be sent to the parent within 24 hours of the decision.
  3. If the suspension was imposed by the principal’s designee, the student may appeal the suspension in writing to the principal (elementary schools) or the assistant principal (secondary schools). The appeal must be made within one school day of the student’s receipt of notice of the suspension. A stay will not be provided during the appeal process for a 37H incident.
  4. If the assistant principal turns down the student’s appeal, s/he may then appeal to the principal. This second appeal must occur within one school day of the first appeal.
  5. There is no appeal for an assignment of demerits.

Long-term Suspension/Expulsion

  1. The student is excluded from the Barnstable Public Schools. When expelled from school, the student may not attend school or to take part in or attend any school functions.
  2. Following an expulsion, a student may not be readmitted to any school within the Barnstable Public School System, without the express consent of the superintendent. Additionally, it should be noted that when a student is expelled under the provisions of M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 37H, no school district within the Commonwealth shall be required to admit such student or to provide educational services to such student.
  3. Expulsion of students for possession of a dangerous weapon, controlled substance or a student who assaults school personnel is under the authority of the principal. The principal may also expel a student who has been convicted, adjudicated, or admitted guilt with respect to a felony charge. See the sections in this handbook entitled “M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 37H” and “M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 37H½.”
  4. Expulsion for any other reason than those stated in M.G.L. Chapter 71, Sections 37H and 37H½, is under the authority of the Barnstable School Committee. After careful examination of all factors involved, if the superintendent determines there are grounds for expulsion, s/he will arrange to convene the School Committee for a hearing under M.G.L. Chapter 76, Section 16.

Procedure for Long-term Suspension or Expulsion:

1. Prior to long-term suspension or expulsion, the student will be provided with the following (except as otherwise provided in M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 37H ½):

  • written notice of charges (in primary language of student)
  • right to be represented by a lawyer or advocate (at student’s expense)
  • adequate time to prepare for the hearing
  • right to present witnesses and to question witnesses presented by the school department.
  • a reasonably prompt written decision, including specific grounds for the decision.
  • The school department will record (by tape or other appropriate means) the hearing and a copy of such will be made available to the student upon request. Notices and proceedings will be translated into the student’s/parent’s primary language if necessary for their understanding of the proceedings.

2. Students may appeal expulsions imposed by the principal to the superintendent within 10 days of the receipt of the written decision of the principal to expel. The appeal does not stay the expulsion. In addition, students may appeal a long-term suspension decision to the superintendent within 10 days of the receipt of the written decision of the principal to long term suspend.


Overview of State Statutes Related to Student Suspension and Expulsion

M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 37H

  1. Any student who is found on school premises or at school sponsored or school-related events, including athletic games, in possession of a dangerous weapon, including, but not limited to, a gun or a knife; or a controlled substance as defined in Chapter 94 C, including, but not limited to, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin, may be subject to expulsion from school or school district by the principal.
  2. Any student who assaults a principal, assistant principal, teacher, teacher's aide or other educational staff on school premises or at school sponsored or school-related events, including athletic games, may be subject to expulsion from the school or school district by the principal. Students should note that the definition of "assault" includes not only harmful or offensive contact, but also threatening such contact.
  3. Any student who is charged with a violation of either paragraph (1) or (2) shall be notified in writing of an opportunity for a hearing; provided, however, that the student may have representation along with the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses at said hearing before the principal.
  4. After the hearing, a principal may, in his/her discretion, decide to suspend rather than expel a student who has been determined by the principal to have violated either paragraph (1) or (2).
  5. Any student who has been expelled from a school district pursuant to these provisions shall have the right to appeal to the superintendent. The expelled student shall have ten days from the date of the expulsion in which to notify the superintendent of his appeal. The student has the right to counsel at a hearing before the superintendent. The subject matter of the appeal shall not be limited solely to a factual determination of whether the student has violated any provisions of this section. When a student is expelled under the provisions of this section and applies for admission to another school, the superintendent of the sending school shall notify the superintendent of the receiving school of the reasons for the pupil's expulsion. When a student is expelled under the provisions of this section, no school or school district within the Commonwealth shall be required to admit such student or to provide educational services to such student.

M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 37H½

This law provides that the principal may suspend a student who has been charged with a felony or now is the subject of a felony delinquency complaint or may expel a student who has been convicted, adjudicated, or admitted guilt with respect to a felony or felony delinquency, if the principal determines that the student's continued presence in school would have a substantial detrimental effect on the general welfare of the school. If, prior to disciplinary action, a district has knowledge that the student may be a student with a disability, then the district makes all protections available to the student until and unless the student is subsequently determined not to be eligible. 

M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 37H¾

This law provides that the principal may suspend a student for disciplinary offenses other than offenses covered by M.G.L. Chapter 71, Sections 37H and 37H½.

Short-Term Suspensions (10 days or fewer in a school year)

The Statute requires that prior to the student's removal from school, the principal or designee must provide to both student and parent oral and written notice of the charges and an opportunity for an informal hearing (except in cases of emergency or in-house suspension). 

Long-Term Suspension

This law requires public schools to provide educational services for all students who are excluded from school for any offense for more than ten consecutive days.   The provisions for suspending and expelling students under M.G.L. c. 71, sec. 37H or 37H½ for conduct involving possession of controlled substance, possession of a dangerous weapon, assault of educational staff or felony charges/ convictions otherwise remain in place (see above), so long as services are provided.  However, for all other conduct, the law requires the principal or designee to avoid imposing a long-term suspension (i.e., more than ten days, consecutively or cumulative in a school year, whether in-school or out-of-school) until other consequences have been considered and tried as appropriate; provides for appeal of such long-term suspensions to the Superintendent; and imposes a maximum length of ninety days for such suspensions.   

The law allows for an exception to the advance parental notice and hearing for a short-term Emergency Removal if the student's continued presence was deemed to pose a danger to persons or property

The principal must create a “school-wide education service plan” for all students who are suspended or expelled for more than 10 consecutive school days, whether in or out of school, so that students have an opportunity to make academic progress. Students who are suspended from school for 10 or fewer consecutive school days, whether in or out of school, must be provided an opportunity to make academic progress during the period of suspension, to make up assignments, and earn credit missed.


Disciplining Students with Disabilities

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and related regulations provide eligible students with certain procedural rights and protections in the context of student discipline. If, prior to disciplinary action, a district has knowledge that the student may be a student with a disability, then the district makes all protections available to the student until and unless the student is subsequently determined not to be eligible. A brief overview of the procedural rights and protections is provided below.

In general, if an eligible student has violated the school’s disciplinary code, the school may suspend or remove the student from his or her current educational placement for no more than 10 consecutive school days in any school year. If an eligible student possesses, uses, sells or solicits illegal drugs on school grounds or at a school-sponsored event; carries a weapon to school or a school function; or inflicts serious bodily injury upon another person at school or a school-sponsored event, the school district may place the student in an interim alternative educational setting for up to 45 school days. 

Any time the school wishes to remove an eligible student from his or her current educational placement for more than 10 consecutive school days in any school year, or if a student is removed for disciplinary reasons for more than a total of 10 days in any school year when a pattern of removal is occurring, this is a “change of placement.” A change of placement invokes certain procedural protections under federal law. These include the following:

(a) Prior to any removal that constitutes a change in placement, the school district must convene a Team meeting to develop a plan for conducting a functional behavioral assessment that will be used as the basis for developing specific strategies to address the student’s problematic behavior. If a behavioral intervention plan has been previously developed, the Team will review it to make sure it is being implemented appropriately, and will modify it if necessary.

(b) Prior to any disciplinary removal that constitutes a change in placement the school district must inform the parent that the law requires that the school district consider whether or not the behavior that forms the basis for your child’s disciplinary removal is related to his or her disability. This is called a “manifestation determination.” The parent has the right to participate as a member of the group of people making this determination.

The law provides that the school district and the parent, along with relevant Team members, must consider all evaluation information, observational information, the student’s IEP or 504 and placement; and must determine whether the student’s behavior that prompted disciplinary removal was a manifestation of his or her disability. The behavior is considered a manifestation of the student’s disability if the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to the student’s disability, or was a direct result of the school district’s failure to implement the student’s IEP or 504.

If the manifestation determination decision is that the disciplinary behavior was related to the student’s disability, the student may not be removed from the current educational placement (except in the case of weapon or drug possession or use, or serious bodily injury to another) until the IEP or 504 Team develops a new IEP or 504 and decides upon a new placement and the parent consents to that new IEP or 504 and placement, or a Hearing Officer orders a removal from the current educational placement to another placement.

If the manifestation determination is that the behavior was not related to the student’s disability, then the school may suspend or otherwise discipline the student according to the school’s code of student conduct, except that for any period of removal exceeding 10 days the school district must provide the student with educational services that allow your child to continue to make educational progress. The school district must determine the educational services necessary and the manner and location for providing those services.

If a parent disagrees with the Team’s decision on the “manifestation determination” or with the decision relating to placement of a student in an interim alternative education setting or any other disciplinary action, the parent has the right to appeal the Team’s decision by requesting an expedited due process hearing from the Bureau of Special Education Appeals. 

Additional information regarding the procedural safeguards for students with IEPs can be obtained from the Director of Special Education (508-862-4993), and for students with 504 plans from the Executive Director of Social-Emotional Learning and Student Services
(508-862-4951.)

Procedural requirements applied to students not yet determined to be eligible for special education

  1. If, prior to the disciplinary action, a district had knowledge that the student may be a student with disability, then the district makes all protections available to the student until and unless the student is subsequently determined not to be eligible. The district may be considered to have prior knowledge if:
    a. The parent had expressed concern in writing; or
    b. The parent had requested an evaluation; or
    c. District staff had expressed directly to the special education director or other supervisory personnel specific concerns about a pattern of behavior demonstrated by the student.

The district may not be considered to have had prior knowledge if the parent has not consented to evaluation of the student or has refused special education services, or if an evaluation of the student has resulted in a determination of ineligibility.

  1. If the district had no reason to consider the student disabled, and the parent requests an evaluation subsequent to the disciplinary action, the district must have procedures consistent with federal requirements to conduct an expedited evaluation to determine eligibility.
  2. If the student is found eligible, then he/she receives all procedural protections subsequent to the finding of eligibility.