Suspensions: How Your High School May Be Violating Your Rights By Sergio Bichao
Although many students have been suspended at one time or another, few understand what the negative repercussions of that may be. Despite what your friends may tell you, being suspended is not the same as going on vacation. Sure, youâ€™ll have some schoolwork to make up, but that is inconsequential compared to the tarnish left on your school record.
As seniors know all too well, when time comes to apply to colleges, all your classes, grades, and disciplinary problems are revealed. A suspension can ruin your chances of getting into the college of your choice. Because of its damaging nature, suspensions should not be taken lightly. The Supreme Court has even ruled that students who are suspended have property and liberty interests which are protected by the 14th amendment to the Constitution. This brings us to the biggest concern: when a school suspends you, it may also be violating your civil rights!
Look at the 14th Amendment. Adopted in 1968, it states that the government may not confiscate anyoneâ€™s property or throw anyone in prison with out the â€œdue process of lawâ€. This means that the government cannot punish you without a good reason and must allow you to present your side of the case before an objective judge.
In the 1975 case of GOSS v. LOPEZ, the Supreme Court ruled that a studentâ€™s â€œlegitimate entitlement to a public education . . . is protected by the Due Process Clauseâ€. Therefore, a school cannot not suspend, much less expel you, unless granted due process.
The GOSS ruling stated that before a student can be suspended for 10 days or less, the school must provide the student with:
- Notice of the charges against him
- An explanation of the evidence they have against the students, and
- Provide the student with an opportunity to present his side of the story.
- In addition, the school must schedule a hearing with the studentâ€™s parents before the suspension.
Knowing now the constitutional guidelines for a suspension, compare it to Hillside High Schoolâ€™s [the author’s high school] procedures for suspension:
OOPS! Hillside High School has no suspension procedures! At least not any which can be found in the Student Handbook, (where they should be noted).
Gathering from recent suspensions of students in HHS, it can be concluded that the schoolâ€™s phantom procedures include no more than  Telling a student that he will be suspended effective the next day,  Calling the parents, if they can be reached, and  Sending home a letter alerting parents about the suspension a few days later.
In the past and even recently, the Hillside High School administration has refused to explain to the students why they are being suspended, they have refused to take the studentâ€™s side of events into consideration and virtually never called parents in for a hearing before the student was suspended.
Not only is this a violation of studentsâ€™ constitutional rights, but it is also resulting in the wrongfully ruined reputations of many students.
The Goss ruling does not recommend that schools follow these steps in all cases. For instance, if the school feels it must remove a student from school because he or she is presenting a continued danger to the school, then the school can skip due process. However, there is no excuse that your high school should deny you your rights when it comes to incidents such as alleged insubordination, theft, truancy, or peeling off test labels.
Few students and parents have ever challenged suspensions. Perhaps it was because they had no idea how serious suspensions were, or because they felt nothing could be done. In actuality, no one has the right to violate your rights â€“ not even a school. Not only should parents and students protest whenever due process is denied to a suspended student, but they should also demand that fair and reasonable procedures be established for suspensions in their schools.