Education Law

Connecticut and New York Education Lawyers

Our Education Lawyers are Here to Help

Federal law requires that all school-age children be provided a free and appropriate public education at no cost to them or their families. The specific educational program provided is largely a creature of state and local government.  Broadly, education law refers to the rights and obligations of students and educators as they relate to each student’s interaction with his or her public or private school. Education law encompasses a diverse range of legal issues, from issues concerning the adequacy of special education services and the protection of student records to questions of constitutional law. In the context of post-secondary education, tuition disputes, student rights of association, disability accommodations, discrimination and the validity of affirmative action programs all come into play.

As parents, the lawyers at Maya Murphy have experienced first-hand the daunting task of advocating for children, particularly those with special needs, and the conflicts that sometimes result. As education attorneys, we have an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the respective rights and obligations of students and school administrators. Through training and experience, we are prepared to act as advisors and zealous advocates to protect student rights and thereby restore peace to the minds of students and their parents.

Maya Murphy P.C. has proudly been included in the 2024 Edition of Best Law Firms®, ranked among the top firms in the nation. In addition, Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 for his work in Education Law in Connecticut. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is awarded to firms and attorneys who demonstrate excellence in the industry, and is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor. 

Our firm in Westport, Connecticut serves clients with legal assistance all over the state, including the towns of: Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Cheshire, Danbury, Darien, Derby, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Monroe, Naugatuck, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Haven, Newton, North Branford, North Haven, Norwalk, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Seymour, Shelton, Sherman, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven, Weston, Westport, Wilton, and Woodbridge.

In addition to assisting clients in Connecticut, our firm handles education law  matters in New York as well.

If you have any questions about education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya and the other experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@Mayalaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation today.

Serving Parents and Students in all Education Law Matters in Connecticut and New York

Special Education Law in New York and Connecticut

What is special education in New York and Connecticut?

Disabilities that may allow a child to get special education services include

  • problems with speech or language;
  • autism;
  • attention deficit disorder;
  • problems with hearing or seeing;
  • intellectual or learning disabilities;
  • neurological or physical problems;
  • serious emotional problems;
  • traumatic brain injury; or
  • other health problems such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome.

If your child is younger than 3 years old and you are worried about their ability to see, talk, hear, move, eat, or play, the Birth to Three System (also called Early Intervention Services) can help.

If you think your child has a disability, you can ask for your child to be evaluated for special education eligibility. This is called a referral to special education.

The referral for special education must be in writing to be legally binding.

You can write a referral letter to the school principal or director of special education or ask if the school district has a form you can fill out. You can give the referral to the school district in person or send it by certified mail and keep a copy for yourself. If you deliver it in person, ask the person who takes it from you to give you a signed and dated copy.

A referral to special education can be made by

  • the child’s parent or legal guardian,
  • the child’s teacher or other school staff;
  • a professional such as a pediatrician or social worker; or
  • the student, if age 18 or older.

The school district must make a referral to special education if

  • the child has been suspended multiple times; or
  • his or her attendance, behavior, or progress in school is poor.

What happens in New York and Connecticut after a Special Education referral is made?

Once a referral has been made, the school district should form a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) and schedule a PPT meeting.

The PPT is a group of people who work together to talk about and plan for your child’s educational needs. Parents are important and equal members of the team.

The members of the PPT must include

  • the child’s parent or guardian;
  • a school administrator or someone named by the administrator;
  • the child’s regular education teacher, if the child has one; and
  • a member of the special education staff.

The PPT may also include

  • other school staff;
  • your child, if appropriate; and
  • other people you think could be helpful.

When will the first PPT meeting take place in New York and Connecticut?

The school district must tell you in writing at least 5 school days before the meeting. The notice they send you must include:

  • the date, time, location, and reason for the PPT meeting; and
  • who has been invited.

If the PPT meeting doesn’t work with your schedule, you can ask the school district to reschedule it. If you can’t get to the meeting in person, the school district must try other ways to get you involved, such as meeting with you by phone or video conference. If it’s impossible for you to attend the PPT meeting at all, the meeting may be held without you.

What will happen at the first PPT meeting in New York and Connecticut?

At the first PPT meeting, the team will do these things:

  • Talk about the reason for the referral to special education.
  • Look at how your child is doing in school.
  • Consider information about your child coming from you, teachers and other school staff, and professionals such as a school psychologist or an occupational, speech, or physical therapist.
  • Decide if your child needs to be evaluated to get more information.

If the school district decides it will evaluate your child for special education, then within 45 days of when the referral was made (not counting the time it takes to get parent consent to evaluate), it must

  • evaluate your child,
  • have a PPT meeting to discuss the results of the evaluations, and
  • implement the education plan.

If the school district decides it will NOT evaluate your child, and if you don’t agree with the decision, you can ask for a due process hearing.

An evaluation is a way to gather information about your child that will help you and the school district to make important decisions about your child’s education. Evaluations must be free for the child’s parent or guardian.

The school district usually cannot evaluate your child without your written permission. If you don’t want your child to be evaluated, you can say no.

Before you sign the form agreeing to have your child evaluated, read it carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The school district may evaluate the child’s

  • intelligence;
  • academic ability;
  • motor skills;
  • behavior;
  • mental health;
  • speech or language; and
  • hearing, vision, or physical health.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Evaluations must be given in the child’s native language or way of communicating (for example, sign language).
  • The school district must not discriminate against the child’s race, culture, or disability.
  • The results of the evaluations may not be shared with anyone outside of the team unless you agree in writing.

What happens after the educational evaluation is finished

What is special education in New York and Connecticut?

Special education is classroom instruction for children between ages 3 and 22 who have a disability that causes them to need special help in school. It may include special classes, programs, or services.

Disabilities that may allow a child to get special education services include

  • problems with speech or language;
  • autism;
  • attention deficit disorder;
  • problems with hearing or seeing;
  • intellectual or learning disabilities;
  • neurological or physical problems;
  • serious emotional problems;
  • traumatic brain injury; or
  • other health problems such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome.

If your child is younger than 3 years old and you are worried about their ability to see, talk, hear, move, eat, or play, the Birth to Three System (also called Early Intervention Services) can help.

If you think your child has a disability, you can ask for your child to be evaluated for special education eligibility. This is called a referral to special education.

The referral for special education must be in writing to be legally binding.

You can write a referral letter to the school principal or director of special education or ask if the school district has a form you can fill out. You can give the referral to the school district in person or send it by certified mail and keep a copy for yourself. If you deliver it in person, ask the person who takes it from you to give you a signed and dated copy.

A referral to special education can be made by

  • the child’s parent or legal guardian,
  • the child’s teacher or other school staff;
  • a professional such as a pediatrician or social worker; or
  • the student, if age 18 or older.

The school district must make a referral to special education if

  • the child has been suspended multiple times; or
  • his or her attendance, behavior, or progress in school is poor.

What happens in New York and Connecticut after a Special Education referral is made?

Once a referral has been made, the school district should form a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) and schedule a PPT meeting.

The Planning and Placement Team (PPT) in New York and Connecticut.

The PPT is a group of people who work together to talk about and plan for your child’s educational needs. Parents are important and equal members of the team.

The members of the PPT must include

  • the child’s parent or guardian;
  • a school administrator or someone named by the administrator;
  • the child’s regular education teacher, if the child has one; and
  • a member of the special education staff.

The PPT may also include

  • other school staff;
  • your child, if appropriate; and
  • other people you think could be helpful.

When will the first PPT meeting take place in New York and Connecticut?

The school district must tell you in writing at least 5 school days before the meeting. The notice they send you must include:

  • the date, time, location, and reason for the PPT meeting; and
  • who has been invited.

If the PPT meeting doesn’t work with your schedule, you can ask the school district to reschedule it. If you can’t get to the meeting in person, the school district must try other ways to get you involved, such as meeting with you by phone or video conference. If it’s impossible for you to attend the PPT meeting at all, the meeting may be held without you.

What will happen at the first PPT meeting in New York and Connecticut?

At the first PPT meeting, the team will do these things:

  • Talk about the reason for the referral to special education.
  • Look at how your child is doing in school.
  • Consider information about your child coming from you, teachers and other school staff, and professionals such as a school psychologist or an occupational, speech, or physical therapist.
  • Decide if your child needs to be evaluated to get more information.

If the school district decides it will evaluate your child for special education, then within 45 days of when the referral was made (not counting the time it takes to get parent consent to evaluate), it must

  • evaluate your child,
  • have a PPT meeting to discuss the results of the evaluations, and
  • implement the education plan.

If the school district decides it will NOT evaluate your child, and if you don’t agree with the decision, you can ask for a due process hearing.

What is an educational evaluation for special education services in New York and Connecticut?

An evaluation is a way to gather information about your child that will help you and the school district to make important decisions about your child’s education. Evaluations must be free for the child’s parent or guardian.

The school district usually cannot evaluate your child without your written permission. If you don’t want your child to be evaluated, you can say no.

Before you sign the form agreeing to have your child evaluated, read it carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The school district may evaluate the child’s

  • intelligence;
  • academic ability;
  • motor skills;
  • behavior;
  • mental health;
  • speech or language; and
  • hearing, vision, or physical health.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Evaluations must be given in the child’s native language or way of communicating (for example, sign language).
  • The school district must not discriminate against the child’s race, culture, or disability.
  • The results of the evaluations may not be shared with anyone outside of the team unless you agree in writing.

What happens after the educational evaluation is finished in Connecticut and New York?

After the evaluations are done, another PPT meeting will be held so the PPT can look at the results and decide if your child is eligible for special education services.

If the PPT decides your child is eligible for special education, the team’s next steps are to identify your child’s needs and to decide what services the school district will provide.

If the PPT decides your child is not eligible for special education, the school district must tell you in writing and give you information about what to do if you disagree with the decision.

What if the school district won’t evaluate a child or a parent disagrees with the school district’s evaluations in Connecticut or New York?

If a school district won’t evaluate your child or you disagree with the school district’s evaluations, you can ask for an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE). You can choose your own evaluator or you can ask the school district for a list of independent evaluators.

There will be another PPT meeting to review the IEE. The school district must look at the results of the independent evaluation, but it doesn’t have to agree with the results or recommendations.

Who pays for an independent educational evaluation in Connecticut and New York?

The school district must pay for an IEE unless it asks for a due process hearing. A due process hearing is a proceeding where a hearing officer decides how to resolve a disagreement. If a due process hearing is held, the school district must prove that its evaluation was appropriate.

  • If the hearing officer decides the school district’s evaluation was acceptable, you will have to pay for an IEE yourself.
  • If the hearing officer decides the school district’s evaluation was not acceptable, the school district must pay for an IEE.

If your child is eligible for special education services in Connecticut and New York, this is the next step.

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) in Connecticut and New York.

The next step is to hold a meeting to create a plan for your child’s education. This plan is called an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. At the PPT meeting, the team should set reasonable goals for your child’s education, and talk about the special education services your child will get.

The IEP must be put in writing and the school district must get your written permission to place your child in special education. The school district cannot force you to agree to special education for your child.

Who develops a child’s IEP in Connecticut and New York?

The PPT develops your child’s IEP. Parents are a very important part of the team and your input is needed.

How can a parent prepare for a PPT meeting in Connecticut and New York?

Here are some things you can do before the PPT meeting:

  • Talk to your child about their thoughts and feelings about school.
  • Talk to your child’s teachers and/or therapists.
  • Ask the school district for a copy of your child’s school records. Records should be provided for free.
  • Make a list of your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and what you think your child can accomplish during the school year.
  • Write down what you want to say during the meeting. Don’t be shy about asking questions and sharing your thoughts about your child.
  • Visit your child’s class (with the school district’s permission).
  • Make sure that all necessary evaluations have been done. You can ask for more evaluations if you think your child needs them. You may want to have a professional such as your child’s pediatrician or a social worker look at your child’s records to see if more evaluations are needed.
  • Invite professionals to the PPT meeting who will support your suggestions about your child’s IEP or placement. These professionals must have evaluated your child or looked at your child’s records.

What information should be in an IEP in Connecticut and New York?

It is important to make sure that the IEP includes following:

  1. Information about how your child is doing in school both in academics and in everyday activities.
  2. Goals that describe what the team thinks your child can accomplish during the year.
  3. Information about the progress your child is making toward the IEP goals.
  4. A list of the special education services that will be given to your child.
  5. Information about how your child will participate in regular education.
  6. Details about your child’s school plan, including
    • where your child will receive special education;
    • who will work with your child;
    • number of hours of special education; and
    • the start and end dates of the services.
  7. A list of changes your child may need to the length of the school day or year. This could include a longer school year, summer school, or services before or after school.
  8. An explanation of changes your child may need while taking state tests or district-wide tests.
  9. Transition goals and services your child may need in order to prepare for life after school.

After the meeting to develop the IEP, the school district must give you a written report about what was talked about at the meeting and what will be in the IEP.

NOTE: If the IEP is missing information or has incorrect information, you can ask for it to be changed or to have additional notes or documents attached to it.

Placement in Special Education in Connecticut and New York

Where does a child receive special education services in Connecticut and New York?

Your child’s special education program may be given in

  • regular classes with support services,
  • special classes or schools,
  • your home,
  • a hospital, or
  • a residential program.

Your child must be placed in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) possible. This means your child should stay in the regular classroom unless the team decides that your child cannot be successful there even with support services. Support services might include

  • an aide in the classroom;
  • more time with the special education teacher or other service providers, such as a speech and language therapist;
  • use of computers or other technology; or
  • changes to the regular education curriculum.

Remember: The school district must pay for the special education program and the services recommended by the Planning and Placement Team in the IEP.

What happens after a child is placed in special education in Connecticut and New York?

After a child has been placed in a special education program, a PPT meeting must be held

  • at least once a year,
  • whenever you ask for one (within reason),
  • if your child is suspended for 10 or more days,
  • before the PPT can change or remove your child’s special education services.

The school district must tell you in writing every time a PPT meeting is scheduled. The school district must also give you a written explanation in your native language of your legal rights once during each school year and whenever you ask for one (within reason).

The annual PPT meeting in Connecticut and New York.

At the annual PPT meeting, you and the other team members will talk about your child’s progress towards the goals and objectives in the current IEP and develop an IEP for the next school year. The team should consider

  • your child’s strengths and weaknesses,
  • your child’s areas of improvement,
  • your concerns,
  • the results of any evaluations,
  • behaviors that may interfere with your child’s learning, and
  • whether your child needs technology to help them communicate.

Can a child’s IEP be amended or modified in Connecticut and New York?

Yes. Make sure any changes are put in writing and given to all of the team members. You should ask for a copy of the revised IEP for your records, too.

A PPT meeting will usually be held before a child’s IEP is changed, but there may be times when you and the school district agree to a change without having to hold a meeting. This type of change is called an Amendment to the IEP. There is a form you must fill out (form ED634), and the agreement is only official after you’ve signed and returned it.

Will a child be evaluated after an IEP in Connecticut and New York?

Yes. Your child must be reevaluated at least once every three years unless you and the school district agree otherwise. Evaluations must also be held

  • before any significant changes are made to a child’s special education placement, and
  • before a child is removed from special education.

Discipline of Special Education Students in Connecticut and New York

Can a child with special education services be disciplined in Connecticut and New York?

Yes, but there are limits on how the school district can discipline a child with a disability. Children with disabilities get extra protections if they are suspended from school for more than 10 days or if the child’s behavior was caused by the disability.

School Suspension for 10 or fewer days in Connecticut and New York

Suspension is the removal of your child from the classroom for at least 90 minutes and up to 10 school days.

The school district must notify you within 24 hours that your child has been suspended. Your child has the right to get their homework assignments and make up all missed work and tests during suspension. Ask the school district for this work so that your child can keep up with the class.

School Suspension for more than 10 school days in Connecticut and New York

For a child in special education, a removal or suspension for more than 10 school days (whether all at once or total over the school year) is considered a change in placement.

The law requires the school district to have a PPT meeting within 10 school days of a change in placement. This meeting is called a Manifestation Determination.

At the meeting, the PPT must decide whether your child’s behavior

  • was caused by or related to your child’s disability, or
  • happened because the school district did not carry out your child’s IEP.

The child’s parents, other members of the PPT, and school staff attend the manifestation determination meeting. You may invite a professional or a friend to support you.

The school district must tell you in writing about the meeting at least 5 days ahead of time, along with a written statement telling you about your rights. The manifestation determination meeting is important. If you can’t go to the meeting, you have a right to call the school district and ask them to reschedule it.

If the PPT determines that your child’s disability did not cause your child’s behavior, your child can be disciplined or expelled just like any other child, except that the school district must keep providing special education services.

If the PPT determines that your child’s behavior was caused by their disability or that it happened because the IEP was not followed, then your child cannot be expelled. However, if the behavior involved weapons, drugs, or serious injury, your child can still be moved to an Interim Alternative Educational Setting for 45 school days.

If your child’s behavior was caused by their disability, the PPT must also do these things:

  • Try to find out why the behavior is happening. This is called a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA).
  • Create a plan to stop the behaviors and teach the child proper behavioral and social skills. This plan is called a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP).

If your child already has a BIP, the PPT must look at it and make changes as needed. Your child must be returned to the placement they were in before being removed unless the PPT agrees to a change in placement.

NOTE: If your child is repeatedly suspended or removed from the classroom, you should ask the school district to hold a PPT meeting.

NOTE: If you disagree with any decisions made about your child, you can ask for a due process hearing to be held without delay. See Due Process.

School Expulsion in Connecticut and New York

If your child is facing expulsion, you should talk to a lawyer right away. The school district must give you an expulsion notice.

NOTE: Expulsion hearings happen very quickly. You have the right to ask for a postponement if you can’t attend, you need more time to prepare, or you need time to find an attorney.

What should happen if a school district is considering expulsion of a student in Connecticut and New York?

A manifestation determination PPT must be held before an expulsion hearing is held.

If the PPT decides that the behavior was caused by your child’s disability or because the IEP wasn’t followed, then your child cannot be expelled and will return to school.

If the PPT decides that your child’s behavior was not caused by your child’s disability, then the school district may schedule an expulsion hearing.

If you don’t agree with the PPT decision, you can ask for a due process hearing (see below). Your child must stay in their current placement until due process is completed. If the school thinks keeping your child in school will result in your child or someone else getting hurt, then it may ask for an expedited hearing (see below).

NOTE: If your child is in special education and seriously hurts someone or the incident involves weapons or drugs, the school district could place your child in an Interim Alternative Education setting (IAES) for up to 45 school days. This is not an expulsion, but your child may be temporarily placed in the same program as expelled students or receive tutoring instead.

What happens at a school expulsion hearing in Connecticut and New York?

While an expulsion hearing is not as formal as a court trial, it is still a legal proceeding and it may be the only chance you get to tell your story to a decision-maker. There is generally no right to appeal the decision in court if you are not happy with the outcome. The decision-maker will listen while each side tells its story and will then decide

  • if your child broke the rules;
  • if your child should be expelled; and
  • if your child is expelled, how long the expulsion will last.

If your child is expelled,

  • your child is still entitled to special education services; and
  • a PPT meeting must be held after the expulsion hearing to talk about where your child will receive special education services, and to make sure your child will get enough services to be able to make progress on their goals and objectives.

What can a parent do if there is disagreement with the school district about what is right for a child in Connecticut and New York?

You have the right to disagree with the school district’s decisions about your child. If you disagree, try to come to an agreement. If you still disagree, there are other ways to resolve a disagreement.

NOTE: It is best to talk to a lawyer before going ahead withanyof the options below.

Educational Mediation in Connecticut and New York

What is educational mediation in Connecticut and New York?

Mediation is a way to settle problems between parents and the school district. The State Department of Education will appoint a person called a mediator to try to help you and the school district come to an agreement. Everything discussed in mediation is confidential and cannot be used in any future hearings.

What happens during educational mediation in Connecticut and New York?

The mediator will meet you and the school district separately and then together to hear about the disagreement and to try to help you reach an agreement.

If you and the school district reach an agreement, the agreement will be put in writing and signed by you and the school district. Once it is signed, the agreement becomes a legal document.

If you and the school district cannot reach an agreement, there are other things you can do to resolve the problem, such as ask for a due process hearing.

Educational Due Process Hearings in Connecticut and New York

A due process hearing is a legal proceeding where a State Department of Education hearing officer resolves a disagreement.

NOTE: The due process hearing may last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

What happens at an educational due process hearing in Connecticut and New York?

Parents and the school district present evidence such as records, evaluations, and testimony from witnesses. At the end of the hearing, the hearing officer will make a decision.

How do parents request an educational due process hearing in Connecticut and New York?

It is best to speak with a lawyer before you ask for a due process hearing. You must ask for the due process hearing in writing within two years of the date that you knew there was a disagreement or problem.

Where will a student be during an educational due process hearing in Connecticut and New York?

During a due process hearing, your child must stay in their current educational placement unless the school district and the parents agree otherwise. This is called the stay put placement and applies from the time the hearing is requested until all hearings and proceedings are finished.

Exception to stay put placement: If your child is placed in an interim alternative educational setting (IAES), your child will stay in the IAES for 45 days or until the hearing officer makes a decision—whichever happens first.

What if there is a disagreement about the results of an educational due process hearing in Connecticut and New York?

If you or the school district do not agree with the hearing officer’s decision, then either of you can appeal to a state or federal court.

What is an expedited due process hearing in Connecticut and New York?

An expedited due process hearing is like a regular due process hearing except it is held more quickly. You or the school district can ask for a due process hearing to be expedited when there is a disagreement about discipline issues including manifestation determination, change in placement, expulsion, and/or placement in an IAES.

Educational Advisory Opinions in Connecticut and New York

An advisory opinion is a way to help you and the school district decide if it would be better to have a full due process hearing or try to settle your dispute through mediation. The advisory opinion process can only happen if both you and the school district agree to take part in it. It is only available after you have asked for a due process hearing.

What happens at an education advisory opinion meeting in Connecticut and New York?

A hearing officer will meet with you and the school district in a confidential meeting. At the meeting:

  • Both you and the school district can bring one or two witnesses and/or a lawyer.
  • You and the school district will each have 45 minutes to present your case.
  • Each of you can present evidence and respond to the other side’s presentation. (You can also continue with due process or ask for mediation.)

After this meeting, the hearing officer will give an oral opinion. The opinion will not be in writing and it is not legally binding. You may choose to go to a full due process hearing or ask for mediation.

Maya Murphy P.C. has proudly been included in the 2024 Edition of Best Law Firms®, ranked among the top firms in the nation. In addition, Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 for his work in Education Law in Connecticut. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is awarded to firms and attorneys who demonstrate excellence in the industry, and is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

 

Our firm in Westport, Connecticut serves clients with legal assistance all over the state, including the towns of: Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Cheshire, Danbury, Darien, Derby, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Monroe, Naugatuck, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Haven, Newton, North Branford, North Haven, Norwalk, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Seymour, Shelton, Sherman, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven, Weston, Westport, Wilton, and Woodbridge.

In addition to assisting clients in Connecticut, our firm handles education law  matters in New York as well. 

 

If you have any questions about education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya and the other experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@Mayalaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation today.

What is special education in New York and Connecticut?

Special education is classroom instruction for children between ages 3 and 22 who have a disability that causes them to need special help in school. It may include special classes, programs, or services.

Disabilities that may allow a child to get special education services include

  • problems with speech or language;
  • autism;
  • attention deficit disorder;
  • problems with hearing or seeing;
  • intellectual or learning disabilities;
  • neurological or physical problems;
  • serious emotional problems;
  • traumatic brain injury; or
  • other health problems such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome.

If your child is younger than 3 years old and you are worried about their ability to see, talk, hear, move, eat, or play, the Birth to Three System (also called Early Intervention Services) can help.

How can my child get special education services in school in New York and Connecticut?

If you think your child has a disability, you can ask for your child to be evaluated for special education eligibility. This is called a referral to special education.

The referral for special education must be in writing to be legally binding.

You can write a referral letter to the school principal or director of special education or ask if the school district has a form you can fill out. You can give the referral to the school district in person or send it by certified mail and keep a copy for yourself. If you deliver it in person, ask the person who takes it from you to give you a signed and dated copy.

A referral to special education can be made by

  • the child’s parent or legal guardian,
  • the child’s teacher or other school staff;
  • a professional such as a pediatrician or social worker; or
  • the student, if age 18 or older.

The school district must make a referral to special education if

  • the child has been suspended multiple times; or
  • his or her attendance, behavior, or progress in school is poor.

What happens in New York and Connecticut after a Special Education referral is made?

Once a referral has been made, the school district should form a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) and schedule a PPT meeting.

The Planning and Placement Team (PPT) in New York and Connecticut.

The PPT is a group of people who work together to talk about and plan for your child’s educational needs. Parents are important and equal members of the team.

The members of the PPT must include

  • the child’s parent or guardian;
  • a school administrator or someone named by the administrator;
  • the child’s regular education teacher, if the child has one; and
  • a member of the special education staff.

The PPT may also include

  • other school staff;
  • your child, if appropriate; and
  • other people you think could be helpful.

When will the first PPT meeting take place in New York and Connecticut?

The school district must tell you in writing at least 5 school days before the meeting. The notice they send you must include:

  • the date, time, location, and reason for the PPT meeting; and
  • who has been invited.

If the PPT meeting doesn’t work with your schedule, you can ask the school district to reschedule it. If you can’t get to the meeting in person, the school district must try other ways to get you involved, such as meeting with you by phone or video conference. If it’s impossible for you to attend the PPT meeting at all, the meeting may be held without you.

What will happen at the first PPT meeting in New York and Connecticut?

At the first PPT meeting, the team will do these things:

  • Talk about the reason for the referral to special education.
  • Look at how your child is doing in school.
  • Consider information about your child coming from you, teachers and other school staff, and professionals such as a school psychologist or an occupational, speech, or physical therapist.
  • Decide if your child needs to be evaluated to get more information.

If the school district decides it will evaluate your child for special education, then within 45 days of when the referral was made (not counting the time it takes to get parent consent to evaluate), it must

  • evaluate your child,
  • have a PPT meeting to discuss the results of the evaluations, and
  • implement the education plan.

If the school district decides it will NOT evaluate your child, and if you don’t agree with the decision, you can ask for a due process hearing.

What is an educational evaluation for special education services in New York and Connecticut?

An evaluation is a way to gather information about your child that will help you and the school district to make important decisions about your child’s education. Evaluations must be free for the child’s parent or guardian.

The school district usually cannot evaluate your child without your written permission. If you don’t want your child to be evaluated, you can say no.

Before you sign the form agreeing to have your child evaluated, read it carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The school district may evaluate the child’s

  • intelligence;
  • academic ability;
  • motor skills;
  • behavior;
  • mental health;
  • speech or language; and
  • hearing, vision, or physical health.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Evaluations must be given in the child’s native language or way of communicating (for example, sign language).
  • The school district must not discriminate against the child’s race, culture, or disability.
  • The results of the evaluations may not be shared with anyone outside of the team unless you agree in writing.

What happens after the educational evaluation is finished

What is special education in New York and Connecticut?

Special education is classroom instruction for children between ages 3 and 22 who have a disability that causes them to need special help in school. It may include special classes, programs, or services.

Disabilities that may allow a child to get special education services include

  • problems with speech or language;
  • autism;
  • attention deficit disorder;
  • problems with hearing or seeing;
  • intellectual or learning disabilities;
  • neurological or physical problems;
  • serious emotional problems;
  • traumatic brain injury; or
  • other health problems such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, a heart condition, hemophilia, lead poisoning, leukemia, rheumatic fever, sickle cell anemia, and Tourette syndrome.

If your child is younger than 3 years old and you are worried about their ability to see, talk, hear, move, eat, or play, the Birth to Three System (also called Early Intervention Services) can help.

How can my child get special education services in school in New York and Connecticut?

If you think your child has a disability, you can ask for your child to be evaluated for special education eligibility. This is called a referral to special education.

The referral for special education must be in writing to be legally binding.

You can write a referral letter to the school principal or director of special education or ask if the school district has a form you can fill out. You can give the referral to the school district in person or send it by certified mail and keep a copy for yourself. If you deliver it in person, ask the person who takes it from you to give you a signed and dated copy.

A referral to special education can be made by

  • the child’s parent or legal guardian,
  • the child’s teacher or other school staff;
  • a professional such as a pediatrician or social worker; or
  • the student, if age 18 or older.

The school district must make a referral to special education if

  • the child has been suspended multiple times; or
  • his or her attendance, behavior, or progress in school is poor.

What happens in New York and Connecticut after a Special Education referral is made?

Once a referral has been made, the school district should form a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) and schedule a PPT meeting.

The Planning and Placement Team (PPT) in New York and Connecticut.

The PPT is a group of people who work together to talk about and plan for your child’s educational needs. Parents are important and equal members of the team.

The members of the PPT must include

  • the child’s parent or guardian;
  • a school administrator or someone named by the administrator;
  • the child’s regular education teacher, if the child has one; and
  • a member of the special education staff.

The PPT may also include

  • other school staff;
  • your child, if appropriate; and
  • other people you think could be helpful.

When will the first PPT meeting take place in New York and Connecticut?

The school district must tell you in writing at least 5 school days before the meeting. The notice they send you must include:

  • the date, time, location, and reason for the PPT meeting; and
  • who has been invited.

If the PPT meeting doesn’t work with your schedule, you can ask the school district to reschedule it. If you can’t get to the meeting in person, the school district must try other ways to get you involved, such as meeting with you by phone or video conference. If it’s impossible for you to attend the PPT meeting at all, the meeting may be held without you.

What will happen at the first PPT meeting in New York and Connecticut?

At the first PPT meeting, the team will do these things:

  • Talk about the reason for the referral to special education.
  • Look at how your child is doing in school.
  • Consider information about your child coming from you, teachers and other school staff, and professionals such as a school psychologist or an occupational, speech, or physical therapist.
  • Decide if your child needs to be evaluated to get more information.

If the school district decides it will evaluate your child for special education, then within 45 days of when the referral was made (not counting the time it takes to get parent consent to evaluate), it must

  • evaluate your child,
  • have a PPT meeting to discuss the results of the evaluations, and
  • implement the education plan.

If the school district decides it will NOT evaluate your child, and if you don’t agree with the decision, you can ask for a due process hearing.

What is an educational evaluation for special education services in New York and Connecticut?

An evaluation is a way to gather information about your child that will help you and the school district to make important decisions about your child’s education. Evaluations must be free for the child’s parent or guardian.

The school district usually cannot evaluate your child without your written permission. If you don’t want your child to be evaluated, you can say no.

Before you sign the form agreeing to have your child evaluated, read it carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The school district may evaluate the child’s

  • intelligence;
  • academic ability;
  • motor skills;
  • behavior;
  • mental health;
  • speech or language; and
  • hearing, vision, or physical health.

IMPORTANT NOTES:

  • Evaluations must be given in the child’s native language or way of communicating (for example, sign language).
  • The school district must not discriminate against the child’s race, culture, or disability.
  • The results of the evaluations may not be shared with anyone outside of the team unless you agree in writing.

What happens after the educational evaluation is finished in Connecticut and New York?

After the evaluations are done, another PPT meeting will be held so the PPT can look at the results and decide if your child is eligible for special education services.

If the PPT decides your child is eligible for special education, the team’s next steps are to identify your child’s needs and to decide what services the school district will provide.

If the PPT decides your child is not eligible for special education, the school district must tell you in writing and give you information about what to do if you disagree with the decision.

What if the school district won’t evaluate a child or a parent disagrees with the school district’s evaluations in Connecticut or New York?

There will be another PPT meeting to review the IEE. The school district must look at the results of the independent evaluation, but it doesn’t have to agree with the results or recommendations.

Who pays for an independent educational evaluation in Connecticut and New York?

The school district must pay for an IEE unless it asks for a due process hearing. A due process hearing is a proceeding where a hearing officer decides how to resolve a disagreement. If a due process hearing is held, the school district must prove that its evaluation was appropriate.

  • If the hearing officer decides the school district’s evaluation was acceptable, you will have to pay for an IEE yourself.
  • If the hearing officer decides the school district’s evaluation was not acceptable, the school district must pay for an IEE.

If your child is eligible for special education services in Connecticut and New York, this is the next step.

The Individualized Education Program (IEP) in Connecticut and New York.

The next step is to hold a meeting to create a plan for your child’s education. This plan is called an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. At the PPT meeting, the team should set reasonable goals for your child’s education, and talk about the special education services your child will get.

The IEP must be put in writing and the school district must get your written permission to place your child in special education. The school district cannot force you to agree to special education for your child.

Who develops a child’s IEP in Connecticut and New York?

The PPT develops your child’s IEP. Parents are a very important part of the team and your input is needed.

How can a parent prepare for a PPT meeting in Connecticut and New York?

Here are some things you can do before the PPT meeting:

  • Talk to your child about their thoughts and feelings about school.
  • Talk to your child’s teachers and/or therapists.
  • Ask the school district for a copy of your child’s school records. Records should be provided for free.
  • Make a list of your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and what you think your child can accomplish during the school year.
  • Write down what you want to say during the meeting. Don’t be shy about asking questions and sharing your thoughts about your child.
  • Visit your child’s class (with the school district’s permission).
  • Make sure that all necessary evaluations have been done. You can ask for more evaluations if you think your child needs them. You may want to have a professional such as your child’s pediatrician or a social worker look at your child’s records to see if more evaluations are needed.
  • Invite professionals to the PPT meeting who will support your suggestions about your child’s IEP or placement. These professionals must have evaluated your child or looked at your child’s records.

What information should be in an IEP in Connecticut and New York?

It is important to make sure that the IEP includes following:

  1. Information about how your child is doing in school both in academics and in everyday activities.
  2. Goals that describe what the team thinks your child can accomplish during the year.
  3. Information about the progress your child is making toward the IEP goals.
  4. A list of the special education services that will be given to your child.
  5. Information about how your child will participate in regular education.
  6. Details about your child’s school plan, including
    • where your child will receive special education;
    • who will work with your child;
    • number of hours of special education; and
    • the start and end dates of the services.
  7. A list of changes your child may need to the length of the school day or year. This could include a longer school year, summer school, or services before or after school.
  8. An explanation of changes your child may need while taking state tests or district-wide tests.
  9. Transition goals and services your child may need in order to prepare for life after school.

After the meeting to develop the IEP, the school district must give you a written report about what was talked about at the meeting and what will be in the IEP.

NOTE: If the IEP is missing information or has incorrect information, you can ask for it to be changed or to have additional notes or documents attached to it.

Placement in Special Education in Connecticut and New York

Where does a child receive special education services in Connecticut and New York?

Your child’s special education program may be given in

  • regular classes with support services,
  • special classes or schools,
  • your home,
  • a hospital, or
  • a residential program.

Your child must be placed in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) possible. This means your child should stay in the regular classroom unless the team decides that your child cannot be successful there even with support services. Support services might include

  • an aide in the classroom;
  • more time with the special education teacher or other service providers, such as a speech and language therapist;
  • use of computers or other technology; or
  • changes to the regular education curriculum.

Remember: The school district must pay for the special education program and the services recommended by the Planning and Placement Team in the IEP.

What happens after a child is placed in special education in Connecticut and New York?

After a child has been placed in a special education program, a PPT meeting must be held

  • at least once a year,
  • whenever you ask for one (within reason),
  • if your child is suspended for 10 or more days,
  • before the PPT can change or remove your child’s special education services.

The school district must tell you in writing every time a PPT meeting is scheduled. The school district must also give you a written explanation in your native language of your legal rights once during each school year and whenever you ask for one (within reason).

The annual PPT meeting in Connecticut and New York.

At the annual PPT meeting, you and the other team members will talk about your child’s progress towards the goals and objectives in the current IEP and develop an IEP for the next school year. The team should consider

  • your child’s strengths and weaknesses,
  • your child’s areas of improvement,
  • your concerns,
  • the results of any evaluations,
  • behaviors that may interfere with your child’s learning, and
  • whether your child needs technology to help them communicate.

Can a child’s IEP be amended or modified in Connecticut and New York?

Yes. Make sure any changes are put in writing and given to all of the team members. You should ask for a copy of the revised IEP for your records, too.

A PPT meeting will usually be held before a child’s IEP is changed, but there may be times when you and the school district agree to a change without having to hold a meeting. This type of change is called an Amendment to the IEP. There is a form you must fill out (form ED634), and the agreement is only official after you’ve signed and returned it.

Will a child be evaluated after an IEP in Connecticut and New York?

Yes. Your child must be reevaluated at least once every three years unless you and the school district agree otherwise. Evaluations must also be held

  • before any significant changes are made to a child’s special education placement, and
  • before a child is removed from special education.

Discipline of Special Education Students in Connecticut and New York

Can a child with special education services be disciplined in Connecticut and New York?

Yes, but there are limits on how the school district can discipline a child with a disability. Children with disabilities get extra protections if they are suspended from school for more than 10 days or if the child’s behavior was caused by the disability.

School Suspension for 10 or fewer days in Connecticut and New York

Suspension is the removal of your child from the classroom for at least 90 minutes and up to 10 school days.

The school district must notify you within 24 hours that your child has been suspended. Your child has the right to get their homework assignments and make up all missed work and tests during suspension. Ask the school district for this work so that your child can keep up with the class.

School Suspension for more than 10 school days in Connecticut and New York

For a child in special education, a removal or suspension for more than 10 school days (whether all at once or total over the school year) is considered a change in placement.

The law requires the school district to have a PPT meeting within 10 school days of a change in placement. This meeting is called a Manifestation Determination.

At the meeting, the PPT must decide whether your child’s behavior

  • was caused by or related to your child’s disability, or
  • happened because the school district did not carry out your child’s IEP.

The child’s parents, other members of the PPT, and school staff attend the manifestation determination meeting. You may invite a professional or a friend to support you.

The school district must tell you in writing about the meeting at least 5 days ahead of time, along with a written statement telling you about your rights. The manifestation determination meeting is important. If you can’t go to the meeting, you have a right to call the school district and ask them to reschedule it.

If the PPT determines that your child’s disability did not cause your child’s behavior, your child can be disciplined or expelled just like any other child, except that the school district must keep providing special education services.

If the PPT determines that your child’s behavior was caused by their disability or that it happened because the IEP was not followed, then your child cannot be expelled. However, if the behavior involved weapons, drugs, or serious injury, your child can still be moved to an Interim Alternative Educational Setting for 45 school days.

If your child’s behavior was caused by their disability, the PPT must also do these things:

  • Try to find out why the behavior is happening. This is called a Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA).
  • Create a plan to stop the behaviors and teach the child proper behavioral and social skills. This plan is called a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP).

If your child already has a BIP, the PPT must look at it and make changes as needed. Your child must be returned to the placement they were in before being removed unless the PPT agrees to a change in placement.

NOTE: If your child is repeatedly suspended or removed from the classroom, you should ask the school district to hold a PPT meeting.

NOTE: If you disagree with any decisions made about your child, you can ask for a due process hearing to be held without delay. See Due Process.

School Expulsion in Connecticut and New York

If your child is facing expulsion, you should talk to a lawyer right away. The school district must give you an expulsion notice.

NOTE: Expulsion hearings happen very quickly. You have the right to ask for a postponement if you can’t attend, you need more time to prepare, or you need time to find an attorney.

What should happen if a school district is considering expulsion of a student in Connecticut and New York?

A manifestation determination PPT must be held before an expulsion hearing is held.

If the PPT decides that the behavior was caused by your child’s disability or because the IEP wasn’t followed, then your child cannot be expelled and will return to school.

If the PPT decides that your child’s behavior was not caused by your child’s disability, then the school district may schedule an expulsion hearing.

If you don’t agree with the PPT decision, you can ask for a due process hearing (see below). Your child must stay in their current placement until due process is completed. If the school thinks keeping your child in school will result in your child or someone else getting hurt, then it may ask for an expedited hearing (see below).

NOTE: If your child is in special education and seriously hurts someone or the incident involves weapons or drugs, the school district could place your child in an Interim Alternative Education setting (IAES) for up to 45 school days. This is not an expulsion, but your child may be temporarily placed in the same program as expelled students or receive tutoring instead.

What happens at a school expulsion hearing in Connecticut and New York?

While an expulsion hearing is not as formal as a court trial, it is still a legal proceeding and it may be the only chance you get to tell your story to a decision-maker. There is generally no right to appeal the decision in court if you are not happy with the outcome. The decision-maker will listen while each side tells its story and will then decide

  • if your child broke the rules;
  • if your child should be expelled; and
  • if your child is expelled, how long the expulsion will last.

If your child is expelled,

  • your child is still entitled to special education services; and
  • a PPT meeting must be held after the expulsion hearing to talk about where your child will receive special education services, and to make sure your child will get enough services to be able to make progress on their goals and objectives.

You have the right to disagree with the school district’s decisions about your child. If you disagree, try to come to an agreement. If you still disagree, there are other ways to resolve a disagreement.

NOTE: It is best to talk to a lawyer before going ahead withanyof the options below.

Educational Mediation in Connecticut and New York

What is educational mediation in Connecticut and New York?

Mediation is a way to settle problems between parents and the school district. The State Department of Education will appoint a person called a mediator to try to help you and the school district come to an agreement. Everything discussed in mediation is confidential and cannot be used in any future hearings.

What happens during educational mediation in Connecticut and New York?

The mediator will meet you and the school district separately and then together to hear about the disagreement and to try to help you reach an agreement.

If you and the school district reach an agreement, the agreement will be put in writing and signed by you and the school district. Once it is signed, the agreement becomes a legal document.

If you and the school district cannot reach an agreement, there are other things you can do to resolve the problem, such as ask for a due process hearing.

Educational Due Process Hearings in Connecticut and New York

A due process hearing is a legal proceeding where a State Department of Education hearing officer resolves a disagreement.

NOTE: The due process hearing may last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

What happens at an educational due process hearing in Connecticut and New York?

Parents and the school district present evidence such as records, evaluations, and testimony from witnesses. At the end of the hearing, the hearing officer will make a decision.

How do parents request an educational due process hearing in Connecticut and New York?

It is best to speak with a lawyer before you ask for a due process hearing. You must ask for the due process hearing in writing within two years of the date that you knew there was a disagreement or problem.

Where will a student be during an educational due process hearing in Connecticut and New York?

During a due process hearing, your child must stay in their current educational placement unless the school district and the parents agree otherwise. This is called the stay put placement and applies from the time the hearing is requested until all hearings and proceedings are finished.

Exception to stay put placement: If your child is placed in an interim alternative educational setting (IAES), your child will stay in the IAES for 45 days or until the hearing officer makes a decision—whichever happens first.

What if there is a disagreement about the results of an educational due process hearing in Connecticut and New York?

If you or the school district do not agree with the hearing officer’s decision, then either of you can appeal to a state or federal court.

What is an expedited due process hearing in Connecticut and New York?

An expedited due process hearing is like a regular due process hearing except it is held more quickly. You or the school district can ask for a due process hearing to be expedited when there is a disagreement about discipline issues including manifestation determination, change in placement, expulsion, and/or placement in an IAES.

Educational Advisory Opinions in Connecticut and New York

An advisory opinion is a way to help you and the school district decide if it would be better to have a full due process hearing or try to settle your dispute through mediation. The advisory opinion process can only happen if both you and the school district agree to take part in it. It is only available after you have asked for a due process hearing.

What happens at an education advisory opinion meeting in Connecticut and New York?

A hearing officer will meet with you and the school district in a confidential meeting. At the meeting:

  • Both you and the school district can bring one or two witnesses and/or a lawyer.
  • You and the school district will each have 45 minutes to present your case.
  • Each of you can present evidence and respond to the other side’s presentation. (You can also continue with due process or ask for mediation.)

After this meeting, the hearing officer will give an oral opinion. The opinion will not be in writing and it is not legally binding. You may choose to go to a full due process hearing or ask for mediation.

Maya Murphy P.C. has proudly been included in the 2024 Edition of Best Law Firms®, ranked among the top firms in the nation. In addition, Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 for his work in Education Law in Connecticut. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is awarded to firms and attorneys who demonstrate excellence in the industry, and is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Our firm in Westport, Connecticut serves clients with legal assistance all over the state, including the towns of: Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Cheshire, Danbury, Darien, Derby, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Monroe, Naugatuck, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Haven, Newton, North Branford, North Haven, Norwalk, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Seymour, Shelton, Sherman, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven, Weston, Westport, Wilton, and Woodbridge.

In addition to assisting clients in Connecticut, our firm handles education law  matters in New York as well.

If you have any questions about education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya and the other experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@Mayalaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation today.

Representing Teachers and Other School Personnel in their Public and Private School Disputes

  • Employment disputes
  • Free Speech Issues
  • Contract non-renewal and tenure denials

Suspension and Expulsion Lawyers in Connecticut and New York

Maya Murphy’s Education Law Attorneys are committed to providing its clients with high-quality representation, including thorough knowledge of the law, unsurpassed attention to detail, unwavering client support, and constant preparedness. We understand that our clients are often in the midst of perhaps the most emotional and unpleasant experience of their lives, and seek, at every turn, to alleviate their fears while vigorously protecting and advancing their interests.

To that end, our education lawyers handle each and every case professionally and diligently, providing clients with an unparalleled degree of availability and support. Though we aggressively litigate our more acrimonious cases when required, we always consider the individual and unique needs, position, and desires of each client, and recognize the importance of negotiating settlements when appropriate.

While our education lawyers are experienced litigators and trial attorneys, they are also well versed in the mediation process.  We offer solid legal guidance to our clients with common education law questions or complex education law issues.

The main difference between suspension and expulsion is the amount of time a student must stay out of school.

  • A suspension can only last for up to ten days.
  • An expulsion can last for up to one calendar year.

If your child gets a 10 day out-of-school suspension, it means the school thinks your child seriously violated a school rule.  You should expect that the school will also try to expel your child and you should begin preparing for a possible expulsion hearing.

Who decides whether to expel a student?

If someone from the school thinks your child broke a serious school rule, they can ask the district superintendent to expel your child. In this case, the school will send you a notice with a date for an expulsion hearing. An expulsion hearing is usually not as formal as a court trial, but it is a legal proceeding and it may be the only chance you get to tell your child’s side of the story.

It is very important that you go to the expulsion hearing. The hearing will happen even if you do not go.

At the hearing, someone (called a decision-maker) will decide if the child will be expelled. The decision-maker will usually be

  • a neutral person appointed by the Board of Education, or
  • a neutral hearing board of three or more members of the Board of Education.

The decision to expel will be based on statements and reports from

  • the school,
  • the student, and
  • witnesses who saw what happened.

A witness can be

  • someone who saw what happened, or
  • someone who knows your child well and can talk about your child’s academic and disciplinary history.

When can a child be expelled from school?

Students in kindergarten through second grade (K-2) can only be expelled for very limited reasons (for example, having certain dangerous weapons or selling illegal drugs).

Students in grades K-12 must be referred for expulsion if they

  • posessed a weapon on school grounds or at a school activity,
  • used a weapon to commit a crime on or off school grounds, or
  • sold (or tried to sell) illegal drugs on or off school grounds*.

*If your child only used or possessed alcohol or drugs on or off school grounds, your child might still be referred for expulsion for breaking a school rule.

Students in grades 3-12 might be referred for expulsion if

  • on school grounds or at a school activity, they broke a school rule in a way that seriously disrupts the educational process or is a danger to people or property; or
  • off school grounds, they broke a school rule in a way that seriously disrupts the educational process.

What rights do parents have if a student is going to be expelled from school?

  • A hearing must be held before an expulsion can happen. The hearing should be held as soon as possible, and it must be held within 11 school days after the first day your child was suspended. If something prevents the hearing from being held within 11 days and there are safety concerns about your child returning to school, the child can be kept out of school until the hearing happens.
  • You should get written notice from the school at least 5 business days before an expulsion hearing. The notice must explain which rule the school thinks was broken and how they think your child broke it. The notice must also tell you the date, time, and location of the hearing and how you can try to get an attorney to represent your child.
  • You have the right to get copies of the documents that the school will present at the hearing. You can ask for a list of the witnesses that the school plans to bring to the hearing and copies of written statements made by teachers, your child, or witnesses. You can also ask for copies of any other records that you think may help you defend your child. Some districts call these documents the expulsion packet. See below: How can I get ready for the hearing?
  • You have the right to be represented by an attorney at the hearing. Call Statewide Legal Services at 1-800-453-3320 right away to see if you can get free legal help.
  • You have the right to ask to postpone the hearing to later date. You can ask to postpone the hearing if
    • you can’t attend the hearing at the scheduled date or time on the notice,
    • you need more time to prepare, or
    • you need time to get an attorney to represent you.

Note: If you ask for time to find an attorney, you have the right to a postponement of up to one week, unless there is an emergency. And the school may ask your child to remain out of school until the new hearing date.

  • You have the right to explain your child’s side of the story. You can bring witnesses with you to the hearing and show evidence, such as documents that support your case.
  • You have the right to question the witnesses that the school brings to the hearing.

You can sometimes give up (or waive) your right to an expulsion hearing by signing an agreement allowing your child to be expelled. As with any written agreement, read it carefully, make sure you understand it, and ask questions. You may be able to negotiate a better agreement. Once you sign the agreement and the decision-maker approves it, it is a legal contract.

How to prepare for an expulsion hearing in Connecticut or New York.

Expulsions usually happen quickly. Good preparation will help you make the best presentation possible for your child at the expulsion hearing. You may not be able to stop the expulsion, but you might be able to decrease the amount of time your child is expelled or improve the services your child gets while they are out of school.

You should start preparing for an expulsion hearing right away if

  • your child gets a ten-day suspension,
  • you think your child might be expelled, or
  • you get an expulsion notice.

1. Ask the school in writing for copies of these documents:

  • any documents that the school will be showing at the hearing;
  • all discipline records;
  • a list of the witnesses the school plans to bring to the hearing;
  • written statements made by your child, teachers, or witnesses; and
  • any school records you may want to present in your child’s defense.

Reading these records will help you understand what the school thinks happened.

2. Try to talk to the school’s witnesses before the hearing so you can find out what they plan to say. School staff don’t have to speak with you, and they might tell you to talk to their attorney.

3. Make a list of people who can help you tell your side of the story. Try to find an adult from outside of your family (such as a scout leader, someone from your church, or a coach) who knows your child and can say positive things about them. If this person can’t come to the hearing, ask them to write a letter describing your child’s good qualities. You can give this letter to the decision-maker at the expulsion hearing.

If you want a school staff member to be a witness for your child at the expulsion hearing, you can ask the decision-maker to send the staff member a subpoena. A subpoena is a paper that will require the witness to go to the hearing. You should make this request as soon as possible.

4. Ask for help if you need it. Expulsion hearings are stressful and a lot is at stake. Consider asking a friend or family member to come with you for support. If possible, talk to an attorney. There is a list of organizations that you can contact for legal information or advice at the end of this booklet.

5. Plan your strategy for the hearing. Remember that these things will be decided at the hearing:

  • Whether or not your child broke a school rule and will be expelled.
  • How long the expulsion should last if your child is expelled.
  • Any additional conditions around the expulsion, if they decide to add them.

Before an expulsion hearing:

  • You may think the school is wrong and that your child did not break the rules. Try to find witnesses or documents that can help prove your child’s innocence. You will want to convince the decision-maker that your child did not break the rules and should not be expelled.
  • You may think your child had a good reason for breaking the rules and that expulsion as a punishment is too severe. Try to find witnesses or documents to help show why your child acted the way they did and that their behavior was understandable under the circumstances.
  • If you agree that your child broke the rules, you may want to focus on trying to make sure the expulsion period is not too long. Explain that a long expulsion is too severe or that it would be very harmful to your child. It may be helpful to have an adult outside of your family speak positively about your child.
  • You may want to try a combination of strategies. You can try to prove that the school’s version of events is wrong. If your child is expelled anyway, you can ask that the expulsion will last for only a short time.

What happens at an expulsion hearing?

The hearing will be recorded or someone will write down everything that is said. Anything that is said at the hearing may be used in a criminal or juvenile case if there is a criminal or juvenile case for the same incident. (See below: What if my child was arrested and has to appear in Juvenile Court?).

The decision-maker will listen to both sides of the story and will then decide

  • if your child broke the rules,
  • if your child should be expelled,
  • how long the expulsion will last, and
  • other conditions of the expulsion.

Generally, there is no right to appeal the decision if you are not happy with the outcome.

The school presents their “case” first

The school will go first in presenting its case against your child. It will need to prove that your child broke the rules by having a witness tell the facts to the decision-maker.

A school official will question the school’s witnesses. The school can also show documents that support its position, including photographs, screenshots, and evidence about your child’s past discipline problems.

If the school does not have a witness who was actually there when the incident took place, or if the school tries to prove its case using only written documents, you should point this out to the decision-maker.

The student, their parents, or their representative can question (or cross-examine) the school’s witnesses after the school official is finished with their questioning. This can bring out additional information that could be helpful to your child’s case.

It is important that you remain calm and polite. It will not help your child’s case if you get angry or argue, even if you think someone is not telling the truth. Rather than argue, you and your witnesses should explain what happened when it is your turn to give evidence during the student’s response (see below).

Next, the student presents a response.

After the school presents its case, it will be your turn. Ask each of your witnesses to speak about

  • what they saw or heard,
  • what they know about the incident, and
  • what they know about your child.

You can present any written documents you have that can support your case. If you asked for school records in writing before the hearing but the school did not give them to you, or if you did not get them until the day of the hearing, you should let the decision-maker know. You may want to ask for more time to prepare for the hearing.

The school will then have a chance to question your witnesses.

Closing arguments are the next step

Once each witness has spoken and any written evidence is given to the decision-maker, each side can make a final statement. This is your chance to explain what you think happened and what you think should happen to your child. You can ask the decision-maker not to expel your child or to expel your child for only a short time.

If your child has never been expelled before and the incident did not involve a weapon, you can ask the decision-maker to send your child to a special program. If your child completes the special program, they may be allowed to return to school in less than one year. You may also argue that your child needs specific educational services if expelled (for example, tutoring or a small classroom) or counseling at school.

What if my child was arrested in New York or Connecticut, and has to appear in Juvenile Court?

It is not unusual for a child to face both expulsion and juvenile or criminal charges for the same incident. Expulsion hearings usually take place before the juvenile or criminal case is resolved. The school may expel your child even if a juvenile or criminal case is still going on and your child has not been convicted. Ask the public defender or defense attorney handling the juvenile or criminal matter if your child should testify at the expulsion hearing. Expulsion hearings and juvenile court matters are two separate proceedings. Your child could be punished in one proceeding, in both, or in neither.

Does the school district have to educate my child if they are expelled?

If your child is under age 16, they will continue to be offered an education while they are expelled. This is called an alternative education. Depending on the school district, your child may go to a different school or get individual tutoring.

If your child is between the ages of 16 and 18, has never been expelled bedore, and they want to continue getting an education, alternative education will be offered as long as your child follows any conditions the board or school district may set.

If your child is 17 or 18 years old, alternative education may include placement in an adult education program. Your child will not be required to withdraw from school in order to start adult education as alternative education.

Will a school expulsion remain on a school record?

If the expulsion was for the possession of certain kinds of weapons while your child was in grades 9 through 12, the expulsion will stay on your child’s school records. Otherwise, the expulsion will usually be erased if they graduate from high school.

Your child will probably be asked on college applications if they were ever suspended or expelled. Your child should answer truthfully. College admissions officers will likely talk with your child about what happened and whether they have learned from the experience.

Can a parent prevent an expulsion proceeding by changing schools?

No, you cannot stop the expulsion.

If your child withdraws from school before the expulsion hearing is held, your child’s school records will still contain the notice of the expulsion hearing. A new school district will probably hold its own expulsion hearing for the incident at the old school. If your child withdraws from school before the expulsion hearing is completed, the new school district must complete the hearing and issue a decision.

If the hearing was already held and a decision was made to expel your child, the new school district can adopt the old school district’s decision if it determines that your child also broke the new school district’s rules.

Can schools withdraw a student without going through a formal expulsion process?

No. Your child cannot be withdrawn or expelled from school without an expulsion hearing.

Expulsion for Students with Disabilities in Connecticut or New York.

Can a child be expelled if they are in special education or getting services under a 504 Plan?

It depends. Your child cannot be expelled for behaviors that are caused by a disability. If the school is considering expulsion, it must first hold a special Planning and Placement Team (PPT) or 504 meeting. This meeting is called a Manifestation Determination Review.

Two things need to be decided at this meeting:

  • Was the behavior related to or caused by your child’s disability?
  • Did the behavior happen because the school did not follow your child’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 plan?

The team cannot make their decision based on whether your child understands right from wrong.

If the answer is YES to either of these questions, then the school district cannot expel your child. Instead of expulsion, the team should talk about your child’s need for a Functional Behavior Assessment and a Behavior Intervention Plan. The team should look at services or interventions that can help with your child’s behavior. Usually, your child should be allowed to return to school right away.

However, even if the answer is YES to either of these questions, if your child seriously hurt someone or the incident involved a weapon or drugs, the school could place your child in an interim alternative educational setting (IAES) for up to 45 school days. This is not an expulsion, but your child may be placed in the same program as expelled students or could receive only tutoring.

What if the PPT or 504 team decides the misbehavior was not caused by a child’s disability?

If the PPT or 504 team decides the answer to both questions above is NO, your child could be expelled. If you disagree with that decision, you can request a hearing.

Your child will be educated until the due process or 504 hearing is completed, but their education may not happen at their current school.

If your child is expelled, they must be placed in a program where their special education or 504 services can be delivered in the least restrictive environment.

What if I think my child is eligible for special education in Connecticut or New York, but the school has never identified them as a 504 or special education student?

If the school knew (or should have known) that your child has a disability and needs special education services, then the district might not be able to expel your child as quickly.

Here are some ways that the school might have known that your child has a disability:

  • You told the school in writing about your concerns about your child or you listed serious health issues on your child’s yearly State Health Assessment Record.
  • You asked the school in writing to evaluate your child for special education services.
  • Your child’s behavior or performance in school showed that they needed special education services.
  • Someone at the school expressed concern about your child through the school’s special education referral system.

If you think your child should have been identified as needing special education, ask the school in writing to schedule a Planning and Placement Team (PPT) or 504 meeting before an expulsion hearing is held.

What happens if a child has already been expelled, but they may be eligible for special education?

You should immediately request an evaluation of your child by asking for a PPT in writing. If your child is found to be eligible for special education services, the school must provide those services even if your child is already expelled. If you disagree with the evaluation results, you can request a hearing.

How can I help my child after an expulsion?

If your child is eligible for special education, the Planning and Placement Team – which includes you – must meet quickly after the expulsion decision. The team will decide where your child should be educated and what services your child needs in order to learn. Your child’s educational program does not have to be as good or as comprehensive as the program they were in before the expulsion. But it still must allow your child to make reasonable educational progress. If you have concerns about your child’s program or progress, you can ask for a PPT meeting.

Make sure that your child attends any alternative education program consistently, and that your child completes school work. High school credit can still be earned during the period of expulsion, and your child may still be able to graduate on time.

Make sure your child fulfills any conditions listed in the expulsion decision, for example, community service or therapy.

Your child may be eligible for early readmission to school if they attend the alternative education program regularly, complete school work at a satisfactory level, and fulfill any special conditions. Encourage your child to do well.

Contact An Experienced Connecticut and New York Education Law Attorney

Our attorneys have years of experience representing education law clients in the states of New York and Connecticut. With offices located in New York City and Westport, we strive to provide large firm service while maintaining the small firm attention and accountability you deserve.  us today for assistance with your Individualized Education Program questions. Call 212-682-5700 for our New York offices or 203-221-3100 for our Connecticut office.