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Suspension and expulsion

Region: Ontario Answer # 1402

When a student behaves inappropriately, schools consider a number of options to determine the most appropriate way to respond to the behaviour. This may include suspension and expulsion.

What is suspension?

Suspensions remove students from school for up-to 20 days. Students cannot take part in school activities while on suspension. Only the principal can decide to suspend a student.

When can a student be suspended?

Suspension generally occurs after serious behaviour that compromises the safety and well-being of other students. It may also be used if a student does not follow the code of conduct outlined in provincial legislation. In Ontario, the Education Act determines what behaviour may result in a student being suspended, and lists the following seven activities:

  1. Uttering a threat to inflict serious bodily harm on another person;
  2. Possessing alcohol, cannabis (unless the student is authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes), or illegal drugs;
  3. Being under the influence of alcohol, cannabis (unless the student is authorized to use cannabis for medical purposes), or illegal drugs;
  4. Swearing at a teacher or at any person in a position of authority;
  5. Committing an act of vandalism that causes extensive damage to school property at the student’s school or to property on school premises;
  6. Bullying, including cyber-bullying; and
  7. Any other activities identified in school board policy.

A student cannot be suspended If the alleged behaviour does not fall under one of these categories. Furthermore, students can also only be suspended with respect to activities that have a connection to the school.

A principal must suspend a student for the following behaviours set out in the Act (which are also behaviours that the school board may expel a student for):

  • Possessing a weapon, including possessing a firearm
  • Using a weapon to cause or to threaten bodily harm to another person
  • Committing physical assault on another person that causes bodily harm requiring treatment by a medical practitioner
  • Committing sexual assault
  • Trafficking in weapons or in illegal drugs
  • Committing robbery
  • Giving alcohol or cannabis to a minor
  • Repeated bullying
  • Bullying that creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person

How is suspension decided?

Before deciding to suspend a student, the principal must consider a variety of factors, such as:

  • does the student have the ability to control their behaviour
  • does the student have the ability to understand the possible consequences of their behaviour
  • does the student’s presence in the school create an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person
  • the student’s history (e.g., personal history such as a recent trauma in the student’s life)
  • has progressive discipline already been used
  • is the behaviour related to harassment because of the student’s race, ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation or any other type of harassment
  • how will the suspension affect the student’s ongoing education
  • the student’s age

 

How are parents notified of a suspension?

If a student has been suspended, the principal will make every reasonable effort to let their parents know within 24 hours. They will then receive a letter notifying them about the suspension that includes important information, such as:

  • why the student was suspended,
  • how long the suspension will last,
  • contact information of the supervisory officer, in case parents have any questions, and
  • information on how and when to appeal the suspension.

Programs offered to suspended students

Depending on the length of the suspension, the school must offer different programs to the suspended student as follows:

For a suspension of one to five school days: a homework package from the school.

For a suspension of six to 10 school days: an academic program that will help them continue learning.

For a suspension of 11 to 20 school days: an academic component as well as a non-academic component to promote positive behaviour.

Students do not need to complete their programs in order to return to school after their suspension.

Appealing a suspension

To appeal a suspension, written notice must be sent to the superintendent of the school board within 10 school days of the start of the suspension. Appeals must be heard within 15 school days of the board receiving the notice. Appeals must be made based on three arguments:

  1. The alleged behaviour did not occur.
  2. The alleged behaviour is not behaviour for which a student can be suspended.
  3. The principal did not properly consider the mitigating factors that would require that the student not be suspended.

What is expulsion?

The rules regarding expulsion of students are also laid out in the Education Act. Expulsions remove students from school for an indefinite time period. Only the school board can decide to expel a student, although principals investigate and make recommendations. A student must first be suspended, while the school board considers expulsion.

Students can be expelled from their own school or they can be expelled from all schools in their school board.

When can a student be expelled?

The following activities lead to an immediate suspension and an investigation of whether the student should be expelled:

  • Possessing a weapon, including possessing a firearm
  • Using a weapon to cause or to threaten bodily harm to another person
  • Committing physical assault on another person that causes bodily harm requiring treatment by a medical practitioner
  • Committing sexual assault
  • Trafficking in weapons or in illegal drugs
  • Committing robbery
  • Giving alcohol or cannabis to a minor
  • Bullying – if the student has previously been suspended for bullying and the student’s presence in the school creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of another person
  • Any activity for which a student can be suspended that is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate
  • Any other activities identified in school board policy

If a student engages in one of these activities, the principal must investigate in order to determine whether to recommend expulsion to the school board. When investigating, the principal must make every reasonable effort to talk to the suspended student, their parents, and anyone else who may have information related to the situation.

Principals must consider the same factors that were considered for suspension when deciding on recommending an expulsion.

What happens if a principal recommends expulsion?

If the principal recommends an expulsion, the school board will then hold an expulsion hearing. This must happen within 20 school days of the student being suspended.

If a student is expelled, they cannot go to school or take part in school activities or events.

The school board will assign the student to another school in the board if they are expelled from only their own school. If expelled from all schools in the school board, the school board must offer the student a program specifically for expelled students. If a student successfully completes a school board program for expelled students, they may apply to be readmitted and the board must readmit them to school.

Parents are notified of an expulsion in the same way as a suspension.

Appealing an expulsion

Expulsions can be appealed to the Child and Family Services Review Board within 30 school days after the expulsion notice has been received.

For more information regarding suspensions and expulsions, view the Education Act, or refer to the Ontario Ministry of Education.

 

 


 

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