Wisconsin public school districts have a responsibility to ensure schools are safe places to learn. Student discipline, including suspensions, often assist school districts in maintaining the safety of the educational environment.
The Wisconsin Constitution guarantees a free public education for children ages 4 through 20, who have not graduated from high school. Because a disciplinary suspension interferes with the child’s constitutional right to attend school, school districts must comply with the statutory procedures governing the suspension of a student.
A school district’s authority to suspend a pupil is found under Wis. Stat. § 120.13(1)(b). State laws permit a school district administrator, any principal, or teacher designated by the school district administrator to suspend a pupil:
a. For disobeying school rules.
b. For conveying any threat or false information concerning an attempt or alleged attempt being made or to be made to destroy school property by explosives.
c. For conduct while at school, or under the supervision of a school authority, which endangers the property, health or safety of others.
d. For conduct while not at school, or while not under the supervision of school authority, which endangers the property, health or safety of others at school or under the supervision of a school authority or endangers the property, health or safety of any employee or school board member in the pupil’s district. Conduct that endangers a person or property includes making a threat to the health or safety of a person or making a threat to damage property.
e. For possessing a firearm while at school or under the supervision of the school authority. (Note: This is a mandatory suspension).
The school district’s policies and/or student code of conduct may provide additional information about the particular school board’s philosophy regarding what is and what is not an offense warranting a disciplinary suspension.
A student may be suspended for no more than five (5) consecutive school days. However, if a notice of an expulsion hearing has been sent, the pupil may be suspended for up to fifteen (15) consecutive school days. (Note: A student receiving special education services may only be suspended for more than ten (10) consecutive school days if the conduct is not a manifestation of the student’s disability. Therefore, if the school district’s administration intends to extend the special education student’s suspension to pursue expulsion, the school district must hold a manifestation determination meeting).
Prior to suspending a student, the student must be told the reason for the proposed suspension. The parent(s) or guardian(s) of a suspended minor student must be given prompt notice of the suspension and the reason for the suspension. It is advisable to provide such notice, in writing.
Within five (5) school days following the commencement of a student’s suspension, the student (or the student’s parent(s)/guardian(s)) may have a conference with the school district administrator or his/her designee concerning the suspension. The designee may not be the principal, an administrator, or a teacher in the child’s school. The school district administrator or his/her designee must expunge the suspension from the student’s records if the school district administrator or his/her designee:
a. Finds that the student was suspended unfairly or unjustly;
b. Finds that the student’s suspension was inappropriate given the nature of the offense; or
c. Finds that the student suffered undue consequences or penalties as a result of the suspension.
The school district administrator or his/her designee has fifteen (15) calendar days after the conference to issue his/her finding.
Finally, the school district must allow a student serving a suspension to complete course work missed during the suspension period and to take any quarterly, semester or grading period examinations. School district administrators should confirm that teachers working with the suspended student understand this obligation.
For questions regarding this article, please contact the author,
or your Renning, Lewis & Lacy attorney.
Shana R. Lewis
firstname.lastname@example.org | 844-826-0902
The author would like to thank Law Clerk Bennett Thering for his contributions to this article.
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