Last Updated on January 12, 2023 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 parents respond or do anything? What if it is only a minor student punishment? Does responding to suspensions or detentions 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 take advantage of this important parent right to insert the truth into a student’s files.
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 is usually permanent. It will stay in student records through high school graduation, and beyond. An offense in elementary school may hang around years, damaging a student’s reputation.
These cumulative discipline notations can become problematic if the student commits a suspendable or expellable offense later. Then, the discipline history 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.
A student with 10 pages of school infractions, detentions, or suspensions, which are inaccurate or exaggerated, may have a tougher time proving they are “good” and should not be expelled. Arguing they are an innocent student may fall on deaf ears as the vice principal or expulsion panel may not believe it when looking at the student’s past conduct.
It is thus really important for parents to care about what is in a student’s records. Parents may want to reply to student discipline with facts showing the truth and that a student is less culpable than portrayed. Then, if the 10 page student discipline history comes up, at least the truth will be there to counteract it.
California Legislators Gave Parents the Right to Respond to Student Discipline
Lucky for us, the California legislature cared enough about students to write a law affirming parents rights to respond to student discipline without having to go through a hearing first (as per federal school records law). This is a true gift.
Per California Education Code section 49072:
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.
Under this law, schools must allow parents to respond to student discipline and to insert their response, if they want to.
Most Parents Don’t Respond to Student Discipline
This legal right is not often exercised. Most parents would never know about this code section or the power it gives them. Unfortunately, parents often think they are just stuck with whatever a school chooses to write. Not true in California.
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 false or may contain only half the truth.
As such, it is important parents are aware of their right and use it when appropriate.
How to Respond to Student Discipline
Parents may reply to student discipline when it issues, e.g. the same week it comes out. Parents can also request all student records, see what they contain, and file responses to each student discipline offense. Parents should be sure to request all evidence related to the discipline, such as witness statements.
After a response is sent to the school, parents should follow up and inspect the student’s files, to ensure that their response 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 likely 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.