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Back to School: Students’ Rights in Pennsylvania

Back to School: Students’ Rights in Pennsylvania

Once the month of August comes, families tend to spend their time enjoying the last days of summer in addition to getting ready to send their children back to school. While this usually consists of buying new backpacks, pencils, and notebooks, there is more to consider. When heading back to school, it is important to understand a student’s rights within their school. 

What Rights Do Students Have in Pennsylvania?

Education is a very important right for every child to have. In the state of Pennsylvania, all children between birth and the age of 21 have the right to free and appropriate public education. In addition to this, students are granted the following rights:

  • Freedom of expression: This right includes freedom of speech as well as the right to express themselves and their views.
  • Flag Salute and Pledge of Allegiance: Students have the right to decline to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the Flag based on personal beliefs or religious convictions. 
  • Hair and Dress: Schools have the right to establish dress codes for their students. However, students have the right to choose the length or style of their hair in addition to their facial hair. This right may be limited if it disrupts the educational process or is a health/safety hazard.
  • Confidential Communications: Students have the right to confidential communications with school personnel. This information may be revealed to parents or guardians, the school principal, or the authorities if the health or safety of anyone is in danger.
  • Searches: Schools can have reasonable policies regarding student searches. This requires them to notify students ahead of time and the chance to be present during a licker search unless they believe the materials in the locker could pose a threat to the school.

Suspending a Child From School

When a child is suspended, they cannot go to school for one to 10 consecutive school days. In order to suspend a child for more than three days, the school is required to provide the student with an informal hearing. Students have the following rights in these matters:

  • Both the student and their parents must receive written notice as to why they are suspended
  • The notice must state where and when the hearing will be held
  • The student or their attorney has the right to ask questions
  • The student has the right to speak and present witnesses/evidence

Expelling a Child From School

Expulsion means the child cannot go to school for more than 10 days. In these situations, the school must provide the student with a formal hearing. Students have the following rights in these matters:

  • To have an attorney
  • To obtain the names of witnesses and their statements
  • To question and cross-examine witnesses against the student
  • To speak and present witnesses on their side
  • To record the hearing
  • To hold the hearing within a reasonable time
  • To have a public hearing if requested
  • To appeal the decision

In the event that the student has disabilities, any exclusion from the school is considered to be a change in placement. This may occur if the student’s behavior is dangerous to the school. When this happens, the school district is required to contact the state Division of Compliance for permission to change the child’s placement. The parent or guardian of the child must be notified and can challenge it through a special education hearing and appeals process.

Contact our Firm

Anderson, Converse & Fennick is an experienced law firm in York County, Pennsylvania focusing on Education Law, Family Law, Estate Planning, and Civil Litigation matters. If you need a knowledgeable attorney that will effectively represent your interests, contact Anderson, Converse & Fennick today.

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