Categorizing Misbehavior

When a student misbehaves at school, he or she may be punished with a suspension in one of three categories: the behavior

  1. violated a publicized school policy;
  2. seriously disrupted the educational process; or
  3. endangered persons or property.[1]

As a parent, it is important that you understand what conduct qualifies as prohibited conduct, and in some instances you may be able to contest the characterization.

Violation of Publicized School Policy

School boards have the statutory authority to draft disciplinary rules and policies that apply to student conduct within their district. To that end, they utilize student handbooks, which are distributed to each child at the beginning of the school year, that specifically list conduct that is prohibited. Therefore, if and when a student engages in that conduct, school administrators may issue a suspension.

The rules and guidelines found in student handbooks must be clear and understandable so as to give students and parents reasonable notice of prohibited conduct.[2] Furthermore, the rules must not be completely arbitrary: rather, there must be some relationship between the rules and their intended purposes. Admittedly, this is not a difficult standard to meet.

If you are a parent and your child is suspended under this category, you should first review the school handbook to establish whether or not your child actually violated an articulated disciplinary rule. “You will likely be able to make a stronger case for your child during suspension hearings… if you can show that his or her conduct is neither prohibited by the school nor violates any school rules.”[3]

Serious Disruption of the Educational Process

To qualify for this category, a student’s behavior must interfere with the operation of a class, study hall, library, or any meeting that involves student or staff.[4] Even non-serious disruptions that are recurrent or cumulative qualify, though administrators will consider the frequency, number, and severity of these occurrences.[5]

Endangerment of Persons or Property

Finally, “endangerment of persons or property” constitutes conduct that exposes a student to injury, risk, or a harmful situation.[6] A number of student behaviors would fall under this category, including but not limited to:

  • Fighting and bullying
  • Possession of firearms or controlled substances
  • Damage to personal or school property

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Because of the potentially adverse and significant impact a suspension or expulsion can have on a student’s future, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced school law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport.

Should you have any questions regarding school discipline or other education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport, Connecticut by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at

[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233c.

[2] Crossen v. Fatsi, 309 F. Supp. 114 (D. Conn. 1970).

[3] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at pp.42.

[4] “Guidelines for In-School and Out-of-School Suspensions,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education, at pp.9.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 10.