To your unmitigated surprise, your high school student has been involved in drug dealing. The school seems to have some evidence against your child, and a disciplinary hearing has been scheduled. In preparation, you hired an attorney, but you are afraid your child may still be expelled or suspended for a significant time.

Many Illinois schools take offenses such as drug dealing or even minor possession of drugs very seriously. Even a relatively minor scuffle with a staff person can result in expulsion. This means that otherwise good kids demonstrating an adolescent lapse in judgment can be thrown out of their school. Illinois law, however, allows students who are expelled or suspended to be immediately transferred to an alternative learning program (ALP) unless the student presents a safety risk to others in the program. (105 Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) 5/10-22.6). The ALP must also be available to any student who has been expelled or suspended for more than 20 days.

If your child is transferred, staff from both the original school and the ALP must meet to formulate an individualized learning plan, which includes the plan’s duration, its specific academic or behavioral components, and a time frame for reviewing the student’s progress. (105 ILCS 5/13A-4.). You, the parent, must be invited to the meeting. The regional superintendent must coordinate a multi-disciplinary curriculum for your child which could include community service or work-based credit and should address your child’s individual needs with an emphasis on making his or her educational experience a meaningful one. (105 ILCS 5/13A-5.)

The ALP came about as part of an effort to balance the needs of the school environment with the needs of the individual student. Troubled students can disrupt the classroom and cause time to be diverted from other students. While expulsion helped make schools safer and more productive, the punishment did not serve the needs of the student who was removed. Therefore, Illinois established the alternative program in 1997. Regional Safe Schools Program

If your child is accused of an offense facing expulsion or suspension, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. You and your child should refrain from making statements to the school before getting an attorney’s advice. An attorney may also be able to help present your child’s case to the school board at the discipline hearing. Unlike criminal offenses, school districts do not require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find your student guilty. But even if the school has sufficient evidence, an attorney can help present the case in its most favorable light in an effort to obtain a reduced punishment.

If you have questions about this or another related school law matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)