Under New York State Education Law Section 3214, schools have the power to suspend a student deemed to be insubordinate, disorderly, violent, disruptive, or who otherwise engages in conduct that endangers the safety, morals, health, or welfare of others. A student may also be suspended for violating local school rules. 

Long-term suspensions that last six school days or longer are referred to as “superintendent’s suspensions”, and require schools to give the accused student and the parent/guardian reasonable notice of the allegations and hold a fair hearing. At this administrative hearing, the student has the right to be represented by an attorney, question witnesses, and present evidence. Michael A. Arbeit, P.C. represents students, parents, and guardians throughout Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx in school disciplinary hearings.  

What does a superintendent’s suspension hearing entail?

Much like a trial in court, a superintendent’s suspension hearing is a method of due process. A fair hearing involves giving the accused student sufficient notice of the proceedings, and an opportunity to be heard before any punishment or sanction can be rendered. Examples of misbehavior that would result in a school suspension hearing include:

  • Bullying
  • Possession of weapons or drugs
  • Sexual harassment or assault
  • Terroristic threats
  • Assault on teachers
  • Insubordination

At the hearing, the school has the burden of proving the charges of misconduct, meaning that the school will present its evidence first and it is the school’s job to show that the student actually did what is being claimed. However, as a general matter, due process of law at the hearing does not necessarily include all of the procedural protections or evidentiary rules that are ordinarily applicable to a criminal case.

What is a principal’s suspension?

A suspension lasting five school days or less is known as a “principal’s suspension”. These short-term suspensions also require notice to the student and to the parent/guardian and an opportunity for the student and the parent/guardian to meet with the school principal to discuss the alleged misbehavior. This notice must occur prior to the suspension unless the accused student’s presence at the school poses a continuing danger or a present threat of academic disruption. 

Who presides over school suspension hearings?

The superintendent must personally hear and determine the proceeding but has the discretion to designate a hearing officer to conduct the hearing. The hearing officer is authorized to administer oaths and to issue subpoenas in conjunction with the proceeding before them. A record of the hearing must be maintained, either by stenographic transcript or tape recording. 

The hearing officer must make findings of fact and recommendations as to the appropriate measure of discipline to the superintendent, such as how many days the student should be suspended (if at all). If the hearing officer finds that the student committed the wrongdoing, the hearing officer may consider materials that are unrelated to the misconduct at issue to determine the appropriate penalty.  This may include:

  • Academic records
  • Information about prior incidents
  • Letters submitted in support of the student’s defense

The report of the hearing officer is merely advisory. The superintendent may accept all or any part thereof. Likewise, if a long-term suspension has been issued by a board of education, the board may, at its discretion, hear and determine the proceeding or appoint a hearing officer who has the same powers and duties with respect to the board that a hearing officer has with respect to a superintendent’s suspension. 

Before voting, each board member must review the testimony and evidence in the case. The board may reject, confirm, or modify the conclusions of the hearing officer.

What happens after the hearing?

After the hearing officer’s recommendation is submitted to the superintendent, the superintendent must notify the student and parent/guardian in writing of the final decision and the punishment to be imposed. It is common for a superintendent to make his or her decision immediately after receiving the hearing officer’s recommendation. 

The superintendent’s final decision is appealable to the local board of education in writing within 30 days of the final decision. If the student/parent is not satisfied with the board’s decision, they can also make an appeal to the New York State Commissioner of Education. Frequent grounds for an appeal include:

  • The evidence does not support the charges
  • The suspension is too long 
  • The school did not properly follow the hearing process. 

Choose Michael A. Arbeit, P.C.

Given the complexities of superintendent’s suspension hearings and the long-lasting consequences of having a suspension or other adverse finding on a student’s school record, students should not go into these important hearings without speaking to an attorney first. Having a knowledgeable and fully prepared lawyer by your side is critical to ensure that the student receives a fair hearing, protects the student’s rights, and potentially minimizes the punishment. Michael A. Arbeit, P.C., Long Island’s leading student disciplinary defense attorney, is experienced in these types of proceedings and can advise you of your rights. Contact Michael A. Arbeit, P.C. today to discuss your case.