When it comes to disciplining students, school expulsion is the ultimate punishment: Your child is barred from attending the school for a certain period of time, sometimes for up to a year. Because an expulsion can have a big impact on your child’s education and future, you both should know some things about:

  • The reasons for being expelled
  • How the expulsion process works
  • How you can challenge a school’s decision to expel your child

First Things First

The expulsion process is different from school to school and state to state. It’s important that you get specific information from your child’s school. Check with school officials or your local school district’s web site.

Also, as with many things in education, there’s a difference between public and private schools. Public schools have to follow all sorts of state laws and rules because they’re part of the free public education system. Private schools don’t have to follow many of those laws, so their expulsion procedures may be completely different than public schools in the same city or town. As a practical matter, though, they usually follow some of the same rules to make sure a student isn’t expelled improperly.

Public schools are the main focus here. Again, no matter where your child goes to school, make sure you have an up-to-date copy of your school’s expulsion policy.

Reasons for Expulsion

There are many reasons why a student may be expelled from school. Again, they may vary by school and state, but Michigan gives a good example. Many schools expel students for:

  • Possessing dangerous or deadly weapons on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity
  • Having, selling, or using illegal drugs or alcohol on school grounds or at a school activity
  • Threatening a teacher, staff member, or fellow student with physical harm, or actually using force against them
  • Stealing or intentionally damaging school property or property belonging to another student, teacher, or staff member

The policy or handbook at your school will explain more about the kinds of behavior and conduct that may lead to expulsion.

The Process

Public schools typically have a detailed and written expulsion process. That’s because as a public school student your child has the legal right to a free public education, and by expulsion that right may be taken away. So, it has to be done fairly. It’s called due process.

The typical process, such as the one used in some California schools, includes:

  • Written notice, like a letter, telling you and your child the date and time of the expulsion hearing and the reasons why your child may be expelled
  • A closed-door hearing – meaning the hearing isn’t open to the general public or to students, teachers, and staff not connected with the case. Officials from the district or school board hold the hearing
  • Giving the student the opportunity to present evidence in his defense, including witnesses, as well as the chance to see the evidence against him and question witnesses who testify for the school. Generally, students are allowed to hire attorneys to represent them at the hearing
  • Making a recording or transcript of what happened during the hearing

At the end of the hearing, the school officials will make a decision. If they decide not to expel the student, the case is over and the student is allowed to return to school. If they decide to expel the student, the case is sent to the state board or department of education. If it agrees with the results of the hearing the student is expelled immediately. If not, the student may go back to school.

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