Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter
Dear Legal Mailbag:
As we close in on the end of the school year, students are getting more and more rambunctious, and maintaining order is a continuing challenge. Maybe it is because of the lack of adult supervision, but student misbehavior has been a special problem on our school buses.
One student has had continuing difficulty keeping his hands to himself when riding the bus. Despite our warnings, he has been constantly poking and trying to tickle other students, much to their annoyance. There was even a fight on the bus the other day because another student finally lashed out after one too many pokes from the student in question. Both students were suspended from school for a day for fighting, but we want to take further action with the trouble-maker.
Can we give this student a final warning, and tell him that he will be off the bus for the rest of the year if there is one more incident?
Take A Hike
Depending on how many days are left in the school year if and when this student acts up again, you may well be able to impose that disciplinary consequence. However, there are related concerns, and Legal Mailbag counsels caution.
School officials are expressly authorized to suspend students from transportation services (and for conduct while awaiting transportation services). Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-233c(a) provides in relevant part:
Any such board may authorize the administration to suspend transportation services for a pupil whose conduct while awaiting or receiving transportation to and from school endangers persons or property or is violative of a publicized policy of such board.
Given this statutory provision, you can certainly warn the student that another incident on the bus will result in his exclusion from the bus. Whether that exclusion may be for the rest of the school year will depend upon when you impose any such suspension and how many days are left in the year at that time. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-233a(d) defines a suspension as:
an exclusion from school privileges or from transportation services only for no more than ten consecutive school days, provided such exclusion shall not extend beyond the end of the school year in which such suspension was imposed.
Thus, any suspension of a student must end with the end of the school year.
From the foregoing, it is clear that you are authorized to give the warning you propose and follow through by excluding the student from transportation services, subject to the limits discussed above. However, Legal Mailbag urges you to consider the larger picture. If you suspend the student from transportation services, what are your expectations? Can the parent drive the student to school? Is the parent willing to do so? Presumably, this student is being provided with transportation services for a reason, be it distance or hazards on the walking route. If the district simply expects the student to walk to school and thus be exposed to danger, a resulting injury could well invite a claim by the student and the family against the district for negligence. Accordingly, any time school officials suspend a student from transportation services, they should be clear with the student and parents on the alternative plan for the student to get to school safely.
Sometimes, a family in such a situation cannot (or will not) assume responsibility for bringing the student to school, and school officials must then consider the alternative of suspending the student from school altogether. While such a suspension is more disruptive of the student’s education, such action avoids the concern about the student getting safely to school.
Finally, the prohibition against extending a suspension into the next school year may be a problem if a student engages in serious misconduct in the closing days of school. Sometimes, school officials will simply have to leave it with a suspension through the last day of school. However, in extreme cases, it may be appropriate to consider an expulsion that extends into the next school year. “Expulsion” as defined in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-233a(e) is
an exclusion from school privileges for more than ten consecutive school days and shall be deemed to include, but not be limited to, exclusion from the school to which such pupil was assigned at the time such disciplinary action was taken, provided such exclusion shall not extend beyond a period of one calendar year.
As you can see, the period of expulsion can extend from one school year to the next. In any event, Legal Mailbag wishes you (and all) the best in these final days of the 2022-2023 school year. It’s almost over!