What Parents Should Know About Back to School-Legally Speaking

Parents are often celebrating (or fretting) about their children returning to school this time of year.  Parents are also often worried about after-school-activities and sports commitments. What many parents don't worry about, however, is the legal ramifications that "back to school" can mean for both them and their kids. Here is a list of a few things to consider this time of year:


  1. Sports involve not only buying sports equipment for your ever-growing child, but also potential injuries and liability.  Many sports involve liability waivers. Before signing these forms, parents should always read them. If there is something you don't agree with, then you should always ask questions or even strike these paragraphs out before signing.  Waivers are likewise common for field trips, and other after-school-activities.
  2. Be aware of the student conduct code at your child's school. Much of this may seem innocuous, but pay particular attention to social media rules.  Be sure your child reads and understands the code of conduct for online posting before it's too late.  Harassment charges, or much more serious charges, can result from online activity. 
  3. Truancy laws can present problems for parents as well as children.  Did you know that many counties in Colorado even have truancy COURT? And you can be required to take your child to court dates if continued truant behavior is a problem. Both parents and children can have court-ordered consequences in such courts.
  4. Underage drinking and drug use--especially marijuana in Colorado--can have serious consequences for children and teens. Specifically, minor in possession charges and convictions can result in losing federal funding for college.  Although usually dealt with very lightly at first, plea deals can be deceptive in that collateral consequences do not need to be explained. A criminal defense attorney is always a good thing whenever juvenile charges are pending.
  5. Student record-keeping can be more damaging than parents assume. Just like Human Resources files, student records and student files can contain information that can be damaging to a student's life in many ways. Cops can request student records, and can use the information contained in such records to prosecute your child. Hearsay and rumor can find their way into student files much easier than HR records, and parents should make sure that any disciplinary action by the school is fair, with a full disclosure of the child's file. You can always appeal a disciplinary proceeding.
  6. If you are a parent of a child with disability, know your rights.  Students with behavioral problems arising from recognized disabilities should not be disciplined for such conduct. However, those who have such disabilities but whose particular problematic conduct is not a result of the disability, can still be facing serious consequences.  Regardless, the school should still continue to provide special education services.  
  7. Reasonable discipline by the school or a member of its staff is usually allowed--meaning physical restraint and secluding problem children is generally approved. In Colorado specifically, teachers can be considered the equivalent of parents when parents are absent. So, teachers can discipline your child just as you could in your own home, including physical discipline.