Education is a very important right for every student. When a student is suspended from school, the result is a serious loss for the student, the family, and society. The Pupil Fair Dismissal Act (PFDA) is the state law that governs student discipline. Please visit the Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) Pupil Fair Dismissal Act web page for a copy of the PFDA.
Every public school district, including charter schools, must have a discipline policy that explains when a student may be suspended from school. You or your student should be given a copy or a summary of this policy at the beginning of the year.
A suspension is a dismissal from school for more than one and up to ten school days. If a student has a disability, a removal from school for a shorter period of time may also be considered a suspension.
A student can be disciplined for willful violation of a reasonable school board regulation; willful conduct that significantly disrupts the rights of other students to an education or the rights of school staff to perform their duties; or willful conduct that endangers the student, others or school property. The most common reasons for suspension are disruptive or disorderly conduct, fighting, assault, verbal abuse, threats/intimidation, harassment, and bullying. A district does not have to decide whether they are proceeding with a suspension within a specific number of days of a particular disciplinary incident.
A district cannot suspend a student without first holding an informal administrative conference where the district discusses with the student the grounds for suspension; provides the student with an explanation of the evidence gathered; and provides the student with an opportunity to share their version of the facts and other relevant information. This conference must take place before the suspension, except where the student will create an immediate and substantial danger to him/herself or to surrounding persons or property.
The district must provide you and your student a Notice of Suspension (the notice) and a copy of the PFDA. Your student should receive a copy of the notice and the PFDA at or before the beginning of the suspension. The district must make reasonable attempts to contact you by phone to notify you of the suspension. It is your responsibility to make sure that the district has your most current daytime phone number. You must be served with a copy of the notice within 48 hours of the informal administrative conference, or the suspension, whichever occurs first.
A notice must include the specific number of days that your student will be suspended; the grounds for suspension; a brief statement of the facts; a description of the testimony; and a copy of the PFDA. The notice may include a readmission plan.
The maximum length of time that a student can be suspended for one disciplinary incident is ten school days. If a district is in the process of initiating an expulsion, a school administration may, after providing notice to the you and your student, extend the suspension to a total of 15 school days. For more information about expulsions please see the “Parent Guide to the Expulsion/Exclusion Process,” available on the Expulsions and Exclusions web page.
If your student is suspended for five consecutive school days or less, the district is not required to provide your student with alternative educational services. However, if your student is suspended for more than five consecutive school days, the district must provide the student with alternative educational services that are sufficient to assist the student in making progress toward graduation requirements and that will assist the student with readmission into the regular school setting.
Unless your district’s discipline policy includes a suspension appeal process, there is no formal method to appeal a suspension of ten school days or less. You may wish to discuss your concerns about your student’s suspension with your student’s school administrator, district superintendent, or school board. If you disagree with the suspension of your student, you may write a letter describing your disagreement and request it be kept in your student’s discipline file.
Yes. Similar to a non-disabled peer, a special education student can be suspended from school for behavior that violates a district’s discipline policy or state law. Please see the “Student Dismissal and Positive Behavior Intervention FAQ,” available on the Expulsions and Exclusions web page. You can also review the related federal regulations found at Title 34, Code of Federal Regulations, sections 530 through 536 and Minnesota Statutes, section 121A.43. The suspension of a special education student occurs if the student is dismissed for part of a day or one day or more if the student does not receive regular or special education during that dismissal period.
It is your responsibility as a parent to be familiar with your district’s discipline policy. You can usually find this policy in your student’s school or district handbook and on the district’s website. If you are unable to locate a copy of the district’s discipline policy, contact your student’s district. The best thing to do in a suspension situation is to remain calm and talk with your student about what happened. Then you will know how to move forward and be prepared to talk with school officials. If you have further questions about the suspension process, including special education questions, contact MDE’s Division of Compliance and Assistance at 651-582-8689.
Disclaimer: The law often changes, and each case is different. This document is meant to give you general information and does not provide specific legal advice. Please use the information in this document carefully as this information may not accurately reflect any changes in the law that occurred following the creation or translation of this document.