Last Updated on July 27, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
School Suspensions are devastating to the student and family. Are they appealable? Can they be removed from the student’s records? What steps does a parent take to overturn a suspension?
The Suspension Scene: A Parent’s Confusion
The phone rings- and it’s your kid’s school. First thoughts: “Oh no, is something wrong? Is my child hurt?” When you answer, you hear: “Come to the school as the student has done wrong and is suspended.” The facts of the suspension basis are not revealed or are abbreviated and you are seriously confused.
The drive to school is strained. When you arrive, you immediately believe the school administrator who says the student was really bad, as they are a “respectable school official.” [mistake number one]
Meanwhile the student sits with his head down in the school office, silent [silence here may actually be positive]. You sign the suspension form [mistake number two] and take the student home and maybe punish them.
Eventually you review the suspension form and find that it says the student did something that he did NOT DO. Regret sets in as you realize the student’s college chances are potentially lessened and the student may be labelled a troublemaker. What can you do? APPEAL!
Is There A Suspension Appeal Process?
No, not usually.
There is no law mandating a suspension appeal process in California schools. For this reason, parents who call a school or show up asking to “appeal” a student suspension are met with a blank stare or statements such as “You can’t appeal,” or “There is no appeal process.”
Maybe There IS a Process?
In some schools, despite no legal mandate, there are suspension appeal policies and even a student suspension appeal form to complete, but this is not the norm.
If there is a school suspension appeal process or form, it should be completed fully and WRITTEN evidence attached proving all points (see below).
Make Your Own Suspension Appeal Process
If there is no school or school district suspension appeal policy or form, that does not mean parents are out of luck. In that case, parents can still attempt a student suspension appeal.
This would be done by submitting written arguments opposing the suspension with written proof. Such arguments can be sent to the Principal, and maybe later to the Superintendent’s office (see below).
Student Suspension Appeal Steps
Pursuing a suspension appeal could involve the following steps to be taken for the student:
1) Obtain copies of the relevant Education Codes/Board policies cited in the suspension form and see how they apply or don’t apply to the student. Review other information relevant to student school suspensions to understand how school suspensions work generally.
2) Get a copy of any/all evidence the school has, such as witness statements, and the student’s statement. These documents ARE student records and need to provided. California Education Code (Section 49069.7) allows schools 5 business days to provide them.
3) Develop written documentation on the student suspension supporting the student, such as sworn declarations of the student or their classmates who witnessed the situation. Even email from a teacher on the student suspension and the allegations can be evidence.
4) Draft a very well written, truthful, professional suspension appeal document with an outline of the facts from your viewpoint, the laws or policies that apply, and with actual arguments related to the suspension. State what outcome the student should receive other than suspension.
5) Some school districts allow a student to return to school while a suspension appeal is pending and this could be requested if applicable at the school.
6) A meeting on the suspension appeal should be requested. It is usually a good idea to provide the argument letter in advance of any meeting, so school personnel can review it and understand the issues before you arrive.
Parents Can Be Great Student Advocates
Who knows, if you try, maybe a student’s suspension will be reversed.
The truth is that administrators assume students are guilty just because someone says they are, and parents must challenge schools when they are wrong. It will take a lot of intensive work to do it…. but the student and their future are worth it!
Student suspension appeal lawyer Michelle Ball assists with suspensions, expulsions and other school problems. Centrally located in Sacramento California, attorney Michelle Ball may represent students in towns such as Los Angeles, Santa Clarita, Fremont, San Francisco, Roseville, Moreno Valley, Oceanside and many other places.