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A School District’s Decision to Hold Back a Child

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2016

You got the call – A decision has been made to hold back your child a grade.

Nothing can be worse than a parent receiving a phone call or a letter from their child’s school that says your child is going to be held back. He or she will be retained in the previous grade. It is devastating. Why? How could this happen? How is it going to make my child feel when all his or her friends move forward and they are left behind? At the end of the last school year and throughout the summer I received many calls from parents facing this problem. They ask, is there anything that can be done? Like most responses in law, the answer is it depends. It depends on many factors and the specific facts of your case. It also depends a great deal on what grade the child is currently enrolled in. For example, when a Florida public school child is in third grade and set to advance to fourth grade, the state of Florida gives much more power to school districts in making a decision to hold that child back. Although every situation is unique, here is some information and thoughts that may be helpful.

1. Know the Law

Florida Statute §1008.25 is entitled, “Public school student progression; student support; reporting requirements.” This law contains the guidelines for promoting, and consequently holding back, Florida public school students. Parents should become familiar with this law as it is the school’s road map. Not only does it provide the criteria for promotion and retention (holding a child back), it also provides exceptions for holding students back.

2. Know your School District’s Policies

In addition to the Florida statute, practically every Florida public school district has a separate document outlining student promotion and retention policies. For example, in Broward County it is found in school board policy 6000.1: Student Progression Plan. In Miami-Dade, the policies are found in an extensive document called also called Student Progression Plan (SPP). Examples of these two documents are provided here:; and These policies are normally updated yearly so be sure that the policy you are reviewing is the updated version. Although they track the Florida law, many times there are additional and specific policies and procedures that must be followed in order for the school district to retain your child.

3. Pay Attention Throughout the Year

This sounds easy but you would be surprised how parents either do not pay attention to what is happening during the year or they want to ignore the truth. So what do I mean? When you have your meetings with your child’s teachers in lets say October, pay attention to what is being said. Are the teachers reporting that there are no issues, or is your child struggling in certain areas? If so, what is the school plan on doing to help your child succeed. A school and school district cannot simply let your child fail and struggle throughout the year and then turn around and tell you they are holding your son or daughter back. But you must pay attention. Document issues, documents what the teachers and administration tell you. Create a record.

4. Ask Questions

If your child is flagged for being held back ask questions. Where are the assessments? What interventions did you implement for the child? What alternative criteria have you provided my child? The law and the individual school districts offer alternative “good cause” criteria to be utilized for advancement. Make sure that was offered. Unfortunately, many times these situations require the use of an education law attorney. Principals and administrators many times feel that they are correct and will not listen to parents. Richard Asselta of Asselta Law is an award winning education and school lawyer representing students in all school settings – K-12, public schools, private schools and colleges. Call today for a free consultation regarding your education and school law case. (855) EDU-LAWYER