Thank you for allowing me to assist you with your question.
Your concern if understandable and reasonable. The problem is, since Columbine and other school shootings, school officials are taking a stand of 'zero tolerance' for violence. In your case, it is simply out of context and unjustified punishment for your son. The fear of media attention and special interest groups triggers an unreasonable response to just a simple fight. Boys through out history have engaged in 'fights' and until a few years ago, it was a 'right of passage'. But no more.
You an appeal the decision for his suspension and if he is looking at college, you will want to do so. Most colleges don't look at in school suspensions, but you may want to check the college he is thinking of attending and finding out. If it will, you can use this as reason to try to get the school to rethink the punishment.
The rule is if your child is being suspended or expelled, you should receive a detailed oral or written notice of the charges, including:
- The specific act or incidences involved
- A description of the evidence the school district is relying upon
- The exact number of days of suspension, and when the suspension begins and ends
- A specific date, time and location to appear and challenge the suspension or expulsion
Did this happen? The police talking to him without a parent is a tricky issue. While your son is in school the school become the legal guardian and so long as a school official was present, then the questioning was probably legal.
Now for the appeal, at the informal appeals hearing, school representatives will present the evidence against your child, and you'll have the opportunity to present evidence in your child's defense.
It's best to quickly hire an attorney to represent your child, especially if there is the possibility that there will also be criminal charges at some later date (such as with assault, or alcohol, drug or weapons possession). You wouldn't want your child to make statements in an appeals hearing that might harm him or her in a subsequent criminal investigation. Your child doesn't have to answer questions asked by the school or the police.
A student breaking public school rules may also be charged with juvenile delinquency under state laws, or be considered a "neglected" or "ill-supervised" child in need of being supervised in a juvenile detention facility. An attorney familiar with juvenile rights can help you stay out of hot water with local child or social services advocates.
An attorney can also make sure relevant information is presented to the school representative, and that you've had a chance to review your child's records ahead of time.
Your situation is not that intense, but if he has been involved with other altercations, you may want to consider hiring an attorney.
In many public school districts, parents may also appeal a suspension or expulsion decision to the school board or a special appointed committee. Even if your child has already served out a suspension before an appeal can be processed, you should appeal the decision if you think it was unfair, so that the punishment doesn't continue to be a black mark on your child's school record.
Concerning his right to self defense, yes he has a right to self defense under the Illinois Statutes.
(720 ILCS 5/7-1) Sec. 7-1. Use of force in defense of person.
A person is justified in the use of force against another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or another against such other's imminent use of unlawful force. However, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm only if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another, or the commission of a forcible felony.
It is commendable that you are standing up for your son. Teaching him that he is worth fighting for is wonderful and I am sure you will continue to teach him to defend himself and others.
I wish you the best. Happy Thanksgiving.
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Edited by Lawdoctor on 11/26/2009 at 2:34 PM EST