Last Updated on September 14, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
If your child receives school discipline, should you do anything? What if it is a minor student situation? Does it really matter? Yes.
California law gives parents the legal right to provide a response to “any disciplinary action,” which will become part of the student’s official school records. Parents should definitely take advantage of this important parent right.
Why SHOULD Parents Care About Correct School Discipline Records?
If a student receives school discipline, even as small as a detention or referral, the record of the discipline usually stays in their student records through their school years, and sometimes beyond. This means an offense in elementary school may hang around until a student graduates high school.
These discipline notations can become problematic if students commit a suspendable or expellable offense later, where they can be used to show the student is “bad” or a “troublemaker.” A student’s entire discipline history can be paraded out at an expulsion hearing, or can influence a decision to suspend a student.
So, a student with 10 pages of school infractions, detentions, suspensions, etc. who is up for expulsion, has a tough case to make arguing they are a “good” student and alternatives to school expulsion could work on them. The vice principal or expulsion panel may not believe it.
It is thus really important for parents to care about what is in a student’s records, and to reply to all student discipline with facts that explain how a student is less culpable or data showing the allegations are false.
Then, if a student is later facing an expulsion hearing some distant time in the future, the parent’s well-reasoned explanations in the student records may make the student look less “bad.”
California Legislators Gave Parents The Right to Respond to Student Discipline
What is wonderful is that someone in the California legislature cared enough about students to write a law about the parent’s right to respond to student discipline and add documents to student educational records without having to go through a hearing first (as per federal school records law). I find this amazing, and purposeful. Someone in the legislature got the message that schools may put things in discipline records which may warrant a parent explanation.
Whenever there is included in any pupil record information concerning any disciplinary action taken by school district personnel in connection with the pupil, the school district maintaining such record or records shall allow the pupil’s parent to include in such pupil record a written statement or response concerning the disciplinary action.
This is a law basically ordering schools to allow parents to respond to student discipline and add to school records.
Most Parents Don’t Know About or Exercise the Right to Respond to Student Discipline
Parents legal right to respond to student discipline, and Education Code 49072 are not often exercised. Most parents would never know about this code section or the power it gives them. But they should. Parents often think they are just stuck with whatever a school chooses to write. Not true.
We all know that schools and administrators can write inaccurate statements, do investigations which are skewed, and rely on “he said she said” from students. As such, the student discipline statements or forms schools develop can be very false or may represent only half of the truth.
As such, it is important parents are aware of this right, and that they use it when appropriate.
How to Exercise the Parent’s Right to Respond to Student Discipline
Parents responding to student discipline may reply to student discipline as it comes out, and/or they may request all student records, see what they contain, and then file responses to each student discipline offense.
After a response is sent to the school, parents should follow up some time later to ensure that the statement was actually put in the student’s records.
What If a School Won’t Insert a Parent Statement?
If a school refuses to add a parent response to a student’s records, parents can print out and bring Section 49072 to the school administrator and argue their legal rights.
If that does not end the debate, parents can seek outside help. However, hopefully, showing the school the law will end the denial.
Michelle Ball is a lawyer assisting parents with student discipline records, challenges, suspensions, expulsions, and many other school issues. As a Sacramento student attorney since 1995, she may get involved across the state in Roseville, Stockton, Auburn, Napa, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Woodland, Santa Barbara and many other locations.
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.