Discipline at School - Classroom Exclusions & In-School Suspensions

Note: This information is from our manual, Discipline in Public Schools. 

Discipline at School - Classroom Exclusions & In-School Suspensions

Classroom Exclusions

Under the state’s new student discipline rules, when teachers send a student out of class for misbehaving, that is called a “Classroom Exclusion.”

The new rules require that teachers tell principals, and that the school tells parents about every classroom exclusion.

With these new requirements, there will be more opportunities for parents, teachers and principals to collaborate in identifying and solving problems early.

When can teachers remove students from the classroom?

Teachers have responsibility for making sure classrooms are safe and productive places to learn, so teachers also have authority to remove a student if they are being disruptive or unsafe.  

Specifically, teachers have the authority to exclude or remove a student if there is:

  • Continuing Disruptive Behavior: If the student’s behavior is disrupting the class, and the teacher has tried ways to support the student in meeting behavior expectations, but the disruptive behavior continues, the teacher can send the student out of the class.
  • An Immediate Threat of Substantial Disruption or Danger to Others: If the student’s presence is threatening to substantially disrupt the class or put other students or staff in danger, the teacher can send the student out of class. In those situations, the principal has to be notified immediately.

In addition to classroom teachers, school districts can give other staff the authority to decide if a student should be excluded from a class, or an instructional activity, for behavioral violations. 

Decisions about suspensions and expulsions are generally made by principals or another administrator.


How long can a classroom exclusion last?

A student can be sent out of the classroom for up to the rest of the class period, or the rest of the school day.

A student cannot be kept out for more than the rest of that day unless they are being suspended, expelled or emergency expelled. The student cannot be sent home (out of the school) unless the school decides they should be suspended, expelled or emergency expelled.

What can I do if I have questions or concerns about a classroom exclusion?

When the school calls to tell you about a classroom exclusion, you can ask questions about what happened, and what the plan is if problems continue. If there is not enough time at that moment to talk about the details, ask for a time to talk again by phone, or meet in person.  

Take advantage of the opportunity to talk with your child’s teacher and principal. Ask questions and share your insights about what is happening with your child.  

Check your school district’s policy and procedures on student discipline. It should explain what the process is if you disagree with a classroom exclusion. Generally, it will start with a meeting with the principal and teacher, then allow an appeal to the superintendent and ultimately to the school board.

In-School Suspensions

An in-school suspension is when a student is removed from their regular class, because of a behavior violation, but kept at school.

An in-school suspension can last up to 10 school days.

It is generally a school principal, or an assistant principal, who decides whether a student will get an in-school suspension.

Schools have to make sure there is a staff person with students during in-school suspensions, to provide supervision and help with work if they need it. 

Before deciding to give any suspension, including an in-school suspension, the principal, or the person they designate (often an assistant principal), needs to talk with the student. The school should also try to talk with the student’s parent about the incident before deciding on a suspension.

When talking with the student, the principal (or designee), should:

  • Explain what the school knows about the student’s behavior (what evidence they have that the student violated a rule);
  • Explain what kind of consequences the school is considering; and
  • Give the student a chance to share their perspective.  

Opportunity to call home:

During this conversation with the student, the school has to give the student a chance to call their parents. This is a new requirement under the state rules, and you can find a reference to it in WAC 392-400-450, which explains the requirements for initial hearings with students before a suspension. 

If the school decides to go ahead with a suspension after talking with the student, then the school has to give the student and parents a written notice of the discipline.

Written Notice of Suspensions (including in-school suspensions):

The written notice from the school should explain:

  • what the student did, and
  • why it was wrong (what rule it broke);
  • when the suspension starts, and
  • when it will end; 
  • what other strategies the school tried or considered before going to a suspension; and
  • what the options are if you disagree with the discipline.

Students and parents can ask for an informal conference with the principal to talk about the suspension and resolve concerns or disagreements.

If you ask for a conference with the principal to talk about an in-school suspension, the school should work with you to get it scheduled within just a few days. If you do not hear back, do not be afraid to follow up and let them know you want to meet to address concerns about the suspension. 

What can I do if my child is removed from class often?

If a student is getting in trouble often, it is important to try to understand why.

It could be a sign that the student is struggling, and needs help. On the other hand, it could be a sign that a teacher or a school is struggling with maintaining positive behavior generally, and needs help.

Gather information.

Start by asking yourself, your child, and your child’s teacher and principal questions about what has been happening, like:

  • Is my child having a difficult time in general with following rules? Is my child having problems both in school and at home or with friends? 
  • Are the challenges occurring just in one classroom? Are they happening only at a particular time of day, or area of the school, like at recess or in the cafeteria?
  • Is it just my child, or are several students getting in trouble frequently in the same classroom, or area of the school? 

If it looks like your child is struggling and may need some additional help or support, talk with the teacher, a school counselor or principal about options for some extra help.

Ask for an evaluation if you suspect a disability.

If you suspect your child may be struggling because of a disability, you can ask for an evaluation. Certainly not every child with a disability has challenges with behavior, and not every child who misbehaves has a disability.  However, frequent school discipline can be a sign that a child might have a disability that is getting in the way of their learning. 

If you suspect your child might have a disability (whether it is a learning disability, a developmental disability, an emotional or behavior-related disability or something else), you can ask the school district to do a comprehensive special education evaluation. You can find information about Supports for Students with Disabilities in the Education Issues section of our website, www.oeo.wa.gov, or by clicking here:  https://www.oeo.wa.gov/en/education-issues/supports-students-disabilities

Ask about supports for the classroom or school.

If you learn that the class or the school overall is struggling with behavior and frequent discipline, consider talking with the principal and reaching out to the district office for help.  Many schools are working on building positive school climates and strong relationships between students and teachers that can help reduce overall discipline. There might be resources available in your district to support this work.

How can I be sure I am getting notice any time my child is sent out of class for behavior?

The requirement that schools notify parents each time a student is removed from the classroom for a behavior violation is a new one. Schools might still be trying to work out an effective process to make sure families get notice of each classroom exclusion and in-school suspension.

You might be wondering if you are getting the required notice if:

  • Your child has been disciplined in the past, and you believe there are still some issues with behavior, but you are not hearing about any classroom exclusions or in-school suspensions;
  • Your child tells you that they were sent to the office, or had to go to a different room for part of the day, but you have not gotten a call or note about a classroom exclusion; or
  • Your child is non-verbal and you have to rely on the school staff to inform you if anything happens.

If any of these is true for you, or if you are otherwise worried that you might not be getting notice of classroom exclusions, we encourage you to check in with the school.

Tell the principal and teacher that you want to hear anytime there is an issue so that you can work with them to address problems before they get bigger.

Ask for a meeting with the principal to review the school district’s current policy and procedure on classroom exclusions. Ask the principal to explain what process the school uses to provide notice to families for classroom exclusions. For example, is it the teacher’s responsibility to call directly?  Is someone from the office expected to call parents about classroom exclusions?  Do they, or could they, send emails (if that is an easier way for you to connect)?

You can also reach out to the district office and ask to talk with the person responsible for overseeing discipline in your district.

You can also reach out to our office to see if we can help.