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Suspension and Expulsion Recommendation


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#1 outofmemory

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 08:14 AM

California:

Recently my son was suspended from school for allegedly bringing a flashlight with laser pointer and using it (pointed the laser around on the floor) in the classroom. There were no criminal charges filed, this is just between student and the school district. According to the suspension document another student claims she was hit in the eye with laser.

I'm looking for a local attorney to be an advocate for my son during the proceedings.

CA High Desert (Hesperia).

There was nothing malicious about my son's actions but has been suspended and recommended for expulsion due to allegedly having a dangerous object of no use to the pupil.

His suspension is being extended from the original 5 days until the date of the formal expulsion hearing (Jan 12), which is a significant amount of suspension time. Seems an incredibly long punishment for such an innocuous allegation.

My questions are:

When presented with the level of stupid that the school district is presenting I'm fearful that the involvement of a lawyer will cause an even higher level of hysteria on their part, how likely is bringing a lawyer going to backfire and be more harmful than good for my son's future?

I was also shocked to hear that the individuals on the expulsion recommendation board would be fellow principals of various schools throughout the district. Since the school principal is the 'accuser' isn't this biased as the recommending principals would look to protect one of their own?



Your comments and recommendations are greatly appreciated.


#2 Ted_from_Texas

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 08:39 AM

"Innocuous allegation"?  You're kidding, right?  Have you read the label on the laser pointer?  Your son had no business taking it to school, and if he pointed it at another student's face -- accidentally or on purpose -- he is not only subject to disciplinary action for carrying a dangerous object to class, but if the other child suffered an eye injury you could be liable for civil damages as well.


Since this is, as you say, a matter internal to the school district, school district disciplinary policies and procedures are appropriate.  If policy composes the expulsion recommendation board from a pool of principals in the district, that's what it is and you'll just have to deal with it.  It seems to me they are not so much concerned with protecting one of their own, as protecting the student body, which is not only their right but their responsibility.


Feel free to consult a local attorney to safeguard your child's rights, but don't expect that you'll walk away from this with any degree of satisfaction. He chose to do what he did, and must face the consequences.



#3 pg1067

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Posted --

outofmemory said...

Recently my son was suspended from school for allegedly bringing a flashlight with laser pointer and using it (pointed the laser around on the floor) in the classroom.

I'm not sure what a "flashlight with a laser pointer" is.  A flashlight and a laser pointer are two very different things.  Is this something that has the two things combined into a single unit?


outofmemory said...

There was nothing malicious about my son's actions but has been suspended and recommended for expulsion due to allegedly having a dangerous object of no use to the pupil.

The suspension I can understand.  Expulsion seems a bit extreme unless your son has a history of bad conduct.


outofmemory said...

When presented with the level of stupid that the school district is presenting I'm fearful that the involvement of a lawyer will cause an even higher level of hysteria on their part, how likely is bringing a lawyer going to backfire and be more harmful than good for my son's future?

I'm not sure exactly what you're saying here, but I wouldn't expect a lawyer would do more harm than good.  That said, I doubt anyone who reads your post is going to have any insight into the thought processes of the members of the Hesperia USD board members.


outofmemory said...

I was also shocked to hear that the individuals on the expulsion recommendation board would be fellow principals of various schools throughout the district. Since the school principal is the 'accuser' isn't this biased as the recommending principals would look to protect one of their own?

There are any number of logical fallacies in an assumption that one principal would necessarily be biased in favor of another principal.  Moreover, a recommendation of expulsion only goes toward the punishment, not whether the principal's accusation is right or wrong.  And, in any event, it doesn't appear that your son is denying any of the accusations against him.



#4 pg1067

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Posted --

Ted_from_Texas said...

if he pointed it at another student's face -- accidentally or on purpose -- . . . [and] if the other child suffered an eye injury you could be liable for civil damages as well.

I disagree here.  Under California law, vicarious parental liability would only exist for willful/intentional conduct.  There is no vicarious parental liability for damages caused by a child as a result of negligent/accidential conduct.



#5 Guest_FindLaw_Amir_*

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 10:22 AM

outofmemory said...



I'm looking for a local attorney to be an advocate for my son during the proceedings.

CA High Desert (Hesperia).

A good place to start would be to visit the Hesperia, California Education Lawyers Directory to locate a lawyer willing to advocate for your son. Many of the lawyers do offer a free consultation.

Keep us posted.



#6 sparkly

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 12:09 PM

A few questions please, as the answers may clarify some of the info in your post:

Is your son a special ed student?

If no, does your son attend a "regular school" as a general ed student, or does he attend an alternative school?

If your son is a general ed student who attends a "regular" school, is it high school or middle school or elementary school?

How many previous behavior referrals, if any, has your son received during the past 4 years (no matter the grade level)?

If your son IS a special ed student, does his disability have a behavioral component?



#7 outofmemory

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 04:05 AM

Ted - While your question was rhetorical I'll answer it for sarcasm's sake: Yes, I've read the label. It says "Avoid eye contact". But my hair dryer also says "don't use in bathtub". Obviously a laser pointer is a bright light, a concentrated bright light. And yes, exposure (7-10 seconds) can/will cause damage. To date there have been only TWO cases of people having retinal scarring as a result of this type of laser (of the pointer variety, class IIIa less than 5mW). In both of those cases the individual stared into the light for 30+ seconds.


While I'm certain your post was intended for 'shock' value, it does give me some insight to the ignorance regarding laser pointers. I am surprised by your response however, it seemed inconsistent with what one would expect from a legal advice board. But my fight is not with you good sir. I do thank you for your comments/opinions. While seemingly very unhelpful on the surface, extremely helpful below.



I realize that honesty and our justice system are a little at odds with one another.


But yes, as an honest person we're not trying to trick the system or find some loophole. I do feel that discipline was in order, but suspension I feel is a bit over the top...though not unjustified. Expulsion is just a ridiculous level of punishment. As is (I believe) the suspension from 12/7 to 1/18 (after expulsion hearing decision).


Obviously, no one can see into the minds of those that will hear the matter (principal or not, biased or not).


My goal here is to keep my son for being expelled over a matter I feel could have been resolved with a detention. He's a 10 year old kid, non-malicious, who took a toy to school.  Yes, something I consider to be a toy (at least the cat loved chasing it).


He 'showed off to friends in class' and 'tried to look cool'...because, let's face it. Laser pointers are cool. He didn't intentionally point it at anyone's face (he knows there are risks with a pointer). He's not a bad/problem child...and to date has only ever had one 'incident' of merit (at this school), where he and his best friend were kung fu'ing (play fighting) in the playground.


Yes he's deserving of discipline...but he's getting the death penalty (in school terms) for ignorance.


When another student told on him and notified the teacher, the teacher asked for the flashlight and it was given without argument.


Here's where the logic part of my brain kicks in...maybe not for you Ted...but for me.


If a laser pointer is no longer in someones hand, is it a dangerous object?


If someone is suspended for bringing a dangerous object to school, and NO longer possesses the object, are THEY (or IT) still a danger to others?


So, to me, it is illogical to suspend someone "just because". Yeah, definitely in need of instruction/education and/or discipline. But NO LONGER a threat to himself and others.


IF after instruction/education and/or discipline he was caught bringing a laser pointer to school then DEFINITELY suspension with expulsion consideration (if not immediate expulsion).


ALL objects have the potential of being a dangerous object. Thousands of teachers and professors use laser pointers daily. Homeowners and contractors use tools with lasers in them...shooting across the walls. People get 'flashed' by lasers daily. If they were so "dangerous" you'd hear more about it.


A chair in the hands of a student hitting another student makes the chair a dangerous object? Or it makes the student a dangerous student?


So him getting suspended with a recommendation to expel means they consider him a dangerous student. One that will continue to bring dangerous objects to school in the future...regardless of how dangerous and/or safe a laser pointer might be.


Of course, I find a first incident (with no previous history of danger, violence, or poor judgement) offense to warrant the death penalty (sorry for the sarcasm, Ted's response has me a bit irked).


He's a regular kid, in a regular 5th grade class. Caught up in the foolishness of 'the system'.


This educational code couldn't have been written to list EVERY possible dangerous object, that's just not practical. So a blanket statement was used. But it's my opinion that the intent of the phrasing meant things like: firecrackers, slingshots, clubs, pipes, etc. Objects that could readily be used as a weapon...and were brought with that intent.


A rock is a dangerous object that has no use to a pupil, but there are lots of those in the school yard. And I'm sure that at some point a student has picked one up and thrown it. Has the school expelled itself for providing so many dangerous objects to students?


Even the spforks used in the cafeteria have the potential for danger.


Obviously, no one knows what the expulsion board will decide. And I wasn't asking anyone to be a mind reader.


But I don't communicate well, as I tend to be condescending, over bearing, and far too sarcastic. And if my kid's only defense is me...we might as well start digging that grave.


So genuinely I was worried that the school board expulsion folks would be more strict as a result of getting a lawyer involved. My goal here is to keep my kid from being expelled. While I'd love to sit down with the principal and share with her what an idiot I think she is for the extreme level of reaction (and already have done so to some degree on the telephone), my only goal is the protection of my son.


I can't change the past...nor do I want to lie or try and trick anyone. I think the response to the incident is way over the top and I'm trying to keep him from being expelled.


Lawyers are expensive (though worth every penny). I was hoping to get some opinions from folks on FindLaw whether they felt that getting a lawyer in this instance was wise.


Sparkly, I believe I've answered your questions in the text above, save one:
In the past 4 years my son has had 1 incident of 'record'.
He saw a friend of his being beaten up by another and he came over to protect his friend.
He pushed the other boy away and yelled "leave him alone"...of course the teacher ONLY saw him pushing the other boy away.
Prior to last year he was in private schools (Montessori's) hit public for 4th and 5th grades.


I value and appreciate all comments, remarks, suggestions, and opinions.
I thank you for taking YOUR time to share with me, as it may be helpful to my situation.


Thanks.


PS sorry for the lack of carriage returns in initial post (Chrome browser issue), look much better using IE.



#8 pg1067

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 07:26 AM

If you think your own advocacy on behalf of your son would be counter-productive, then I think it should be intuitive that hiring a lawyer would be a good idea.

#9 sparkly

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 10:13 AM

It sounds to me like your son is a regular 10 year old boy who made a poor judgement call by bringing the laser pointer to school and now he's catching heck for it--more heck than he ever thought possible.

I've worked in the CA school system for over 35 years, although not in the Hesperia area, and I have to tell you that yes, someone can be suspended for bringing a dangerous object to school. It doesn't matter if the object was taken from him by a teacher or whomever, it doesn't matter that the object is in his locker, or that the object is in his backpack, or in his backpack in his locker, what the administration looks at is the fact that a dangerous object was brought to school by a student. They will also look at whether or not that dangerous object was given to a different student, etc. The admin wants to get the whole picture.

I do understand your argument about other dangerous object that we use every day, like pencils, sporks, etc, but I think using that argument just digs the hole deeper, but that's jmho.

Did you get a chance to read the CA Ed Code (ED 48900) about suspension and expulsion? Part "b" references "other dangerous object" and that's probably what the school will be quoting.

Scroll down to "v" as that may be your way out of having your son expelled if you can make a calm, reasonable argument without sarcasm. The admin and Powers That Be don't take well to sarcasm.

Do you happen to have a Parent Handbook for the school your son attends? It may be online as well. Take a look at the pages that reference discipline and consequences and see if you can find an "out" there. It should also note the parameters for how long a suspension may be.

As for what you can do now to fight this, see if the district offers a Parent Advocate or Ombudsman and contact that person--they might or might not.

Here are my suggestions, and certainly NOT to be taken as legal advice. You write in a very defensive tone, and I do understand that you, the parent, are the only person standing between your son and this consequence that you feel is extreme. Please know that you have to put aside the emotion, the sarcasm, and get to a place where you can calmly relate facts--facts about your son's good attendance, about your son's character in helping that friend (which merited a behavior referral), your son's citizenship grades, participation in team (sports?) or group activities in school or outside of school (Scouting?) or through church (choir? baseball team? helping with bake sales?). THEN, share with the Board the consequences that your son has at home as a result of his error in his normally good judgement. Everyone makes mistakes, including 10 year old boys.

Come across as a calm, reasonable parent who is actively involved with all aspects of your child's life, a supporter of his school, his teacher, etc. and a parent who lets the Board know what consequences he has "earned" at home (extra chores), or what privileges he has lost at home (i.e. no TV for 2 weeks, no games or activities--whatever you as a parent determine).

If all this fails, then you may request an appeal and probably at that time, you'd want to bring an attorney. Meanwhile, is the school providing any "home study" or "independent study" things so your son won't be behind when he returns to class? I don't know the ins and outs of Hesperia, but you might want to look into this as well for the time your son is suspended.

Please post again and let us all know how things are going for you and your boy.






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