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Public school students in Wisconsin may be subject to different types of punishment or discipline. This brochure explains three kinds of discipline - removal from class, suspension and expulsion. If your child is a child with a disability, you should also read the brochures called Special Education for Children with Disabilities and Public School Discipline & Children with Disabilities.


Removal of pupils from class

The law allows a teacher to remove a pupil from the teacher’s class if the pupil is dangerous, unruly or disruptive, or behaves in a way that interferes with the teacher’s ability to teach effectively, or if the pupil violates the code of classroom conduct.

Each school district is required to have a code of classroom conduct that describes conduct that is dangerous, disruptive or unruly, or that interferes with a teacher’s ability to teach, and any other reasons a pupil may be removed from class.

If the pupil is removed from a class, the teacher must send the pupil to the school principal or someone designated by the principal. The teacher should immediately tell the principal the reasons for the pupil’s removal. Within 24 hours the teacher must give the principal a written explanation of the reasons for removing the pupil from class.

After a pupil has been removed from a class, the principal (or the designee) has to decide where the pupil will be placed. The pupil may be placed in another class in the same school or in another place in the school; in another school or instructional setting; or in an alternative educational program. The pupil may also be returned to the class from which he or she was removed if this is the best placement for the pupil or if there is no other alternative. Private school and home schooling are not considered proper alternative educational programs for a pupil removed from class.

A removal from class is not a suspension or expulsion. A pupil who is removed from the class should not miss school or a class for any extended period. The pupil should be returned to class or placed in an alternative class or program as soon as possible.


A pupil may be suspended from school for violating any school rule. This includes the code of classroom conduct and other rules adopted by the school board, the district administrator or other school officials. A pupil may also be suspended for making a bomb threat or making a false statement about a bomb threat, and for conduct endangering the property, health or safety of others, (including any such conduct while not at school or under school supervision), or threatening to endanger the property, health or safety of others. Suspension is mandatory for a pupil who has a firearm (such as a gun or rifle) when in school or under school supervision.

A suspension cannot be for more than five school days unless the school district also sends a notice of expulsion hearing to the pupil and the pupil’s parent or guardian. If the school district sends a notice of expulsion hearing, the suspension can be for as long as 15 school days.

The pupil must be told of the reason for the suspension before being suspended. The pupil’s parent or guardian must also be told about the suspension and told the reason for the suspension.

The suspension may be appealed within five school days of the first day of the suspension. The appeal is a conference with the district administrator or a person designated by the district administrator. The suspension may be revoked and taken off the pupil’s record if the district administrator or the designated person decides the suspension was unfair or unjust, or that the suspension was inappropriate in view of the pupil’s offense, or that the pupil suffered undue consequences or penalties because of the suspension. The decision on the appeal will be made within 15 days of the conference. To appeal, a pupil, parent or guardian should write a letter to the district administrator. The letter should request an appeal conference and should be delivered to the school district administrator.

A pupil who is suspended should be allowed to take exams and to complete or make up work done during the suspension.

Expulsion from School

Expulsion is drastic step that has serious consequences. A pupil who is expelled loses the right to attend any public school for the duration of the expulsion. Expulsions are usually longer than suspensions. Although they can be short, expulsions can be as long as a semester or school year, or even until the pupil is 21 years old.

In Wisconsin, children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend school. A pupil who is expelled is not excused from this requirement. This creates a problem for the pupil and the pupil’s parent or guardian because even a pupil who is expelled must be in an educational program. A pupil who is expelled may attend a private school if the private school accepts the pupil, or the pupil may be home-schooled. There may be other alternatives as well. Some school districts have alternative programs for pupils who are expelled, but school districts are not required to offer any alternative program or assist in making arrangements to continue the pupil’s education. In any case, arrangements must be made to continue the pupil’s education during the expulsion.

Reasons for expulsion -

A pupil may be expelled from school for repeatedly violating or failing to follow school rules; making a bomb threat or making a false statement about a bomb threat; or for or endangering or threatening to endanger the property, health or safety of others. A pupil who is 16 years old or older may be expelled for repeated conduct that disrupts the ability of school authorities to maintain order or an educational atmosphere at school or school supervised activities. A pupil who has a firearm while at school or under school supervision must be expelled for at least one year.

Fighting, possession of drugs or alcohol, threatening or assaulting a teacher, and defacing or damaging school property are all examples of conduct that could result in expulsion. Sometimes careless behavior that is not meant to cause any harm can still endanger the health, safety or property of others. Conduct that takes place away from school can also result in a pupil’s expulsion if it endangers the health, safety or property of teachers, school officials or school board members. For example, vandalizing the principal’s car when it is off school property is grounds for expulsion.

It is important to remember that school rules may be stricter than state law and that pupils may be expelled for violating school rules. Pupils and their parents or guardians should go over the school rules at the beginning of each school year.

The expulsion hearing -

If the school officials decide to expel the pupil, the school district must send a written notice of an expulsion hearing to the pupil and, if the pupil is a minor, the pupil’s parent or guardian. The notice must be sent at least five days before the hearing. The notice must include the reasons for the expulsion. It must say which rule was violated and must spell out the conduct that violated the rule. The notice must also state the time and place of the hearing and that the hearing could result in the pupil’s expulsion. The notice must also include other important information required by state law.

The expulsion hearing will be held before the school board, a hearing panel or a hearing officer. The hearing may be closed to the public at the request of the pupil or the pupil’s parent or guardian. The pupil, parent or guardian may be represented by an attorney.

At the hearing, the school board, hearing panel or hearing officer will decide three things: (1)whether the pupil did what the pupil is accused of doing (2) whether that conduct violated the expulsion rules, and (3) whether the interests of the school demand expulsion. The answer to all three questions should be yes before the pupil may be expelled.

At the hearing the school district will present information and evidence in favor of the expulsion first. This can include testimony by witnesses and reports and other written information. The evidence presented by the school district will probably include a report that includes a recommendation to expel the pupil.

After the school district presents its case, the pupil, parent or guardian may then present information and evidence against the expulsion. This can include proof that the pupil did not commit the act the school district says the pupil committed, or other evidence or information showing why the act should not result in the pupil’s expulsion.

Second hand or “hearsay” evidence is allowed. This means that something somebody said can be repeated at the hearing, even if that person is not a witness at the hearing. It also means a written statement can be presented as evidence, even if the person who wrote it is not a witness at the hearing. Each side is allowed to present this kind of evidence. Each side is also allowed to ask question any of the witnesses.

The evidence presented should have to do with whether the pupil committed the acts for which the school is trying to suspend the pupil and should help the school board, hearing panel or hearing officer understand the event. The other type of evidence to present is information about the pupil and other information that will help the school board, hearing panel or hearing decide whether expulsion is fair or is in the interests of the school district.

After the hearing the school board, hearing panel or hearing officer will issue a written decision. If the hearing is conducted by a hearing panel or hearing examiner, the decision to expel will be reviewed by the school board within 30 days. If the pupil is expelled, a copy of the expulsion order must be mailed to the pupil and the pupil’s parent or guardian. The expulsion order will say how long the expulsion will be. The expulsion order may also allow the pupil to apply for early readmission to school and state any conditions the pupil must meet for early readmission. The order may also recommend or require that the pupil be allowed into an alternative education program if the school district has one. However, neither early readmission nor alternative schooling are required by the law.

Appeals -

The expulsion order may be appealed to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), but the appeal is limited. An appeal must be filed in writing and should include the name of the pupil and the school district, the date of the expulsion, the reasons for the appeal and a request that the expulsion be reversed. The appeal may be filed by the pupil or, if the pupil is a minor, by the pupil’s parent or guardian. In an appeal, DPI will only consider whether the school district followed the proper procedure for expulsion - that is, whether notice of expulsion hearing was given within the time limits required by law, whether the notice included all the information required and whether the hearing was conducted properly. DPI will not review the evidence to decide whether the pupil should have been expelled. DPI will issue a written decision within 60 days of the date the appeal is filed. The next appeal is to circuit court and must be filed within 30 days.

What to do if your child may be expelled -

Because It is hard for pupils and parents to win expulsion hearings or appeals, it is important that pupils, parents and guardians work with teachers and school officials to avoid an expulsion hearing.

In most cases, when the pupil does something that could result in expulsion school officials will try to collect information about the conduct so they can decide what the pupil did and whether the pupil’s justifies expulsion. They will probably consider other information to decide whether the pupil should be expelled. This usually includes the seriousness of the conduct and the reasons the student’s conduct, as well as the pupil’s background, school performance and behavior in general. Sometimes school officials will not have all the information they need to make a fair recommendation. It is very important to talk to school officials and give them information that will help them understand why expulsion is not necessary or would be unfair, or why they should recommend a short expulsion, early reinstatement, or admission to an alternative school program if the district has one. This can have as much to do with the outcome as the expulsion hearing.

The above is intended to provide general information only and is not a substitute for thorough and specific advice on an individual case. Depending on the complexity of your legal problem you may need to consult an attorney for advice or representation.

This was prepared by the staff of Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. on behalf of low-income clients and was funded by the Legal Services Corporation, Washington, D.C. 20005 and by the Dane County Bar Association Pro Bono Trust Fund. Any opinions contained herein are those of the authors and should not be construed as those of the Legal Services Corporation or the Dane County Bar Association.

Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc. does not discriminate on the basis of disability in the provision of services or in employment. If you need printed material interpreted or in a different form, or if you need assistance in using our services, please inform us. Deaf, hearing-impaired or speech-impaired callers may reach us through the Wisconsin Telecommunication Relay System (1-800-947-3529).

Updated Feb 2007   © 2007 Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc.

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