Last Updated on September 1, 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 discipline impacts thousands of students every day. What is the difference between punishments such as suspension, expulsion, detention, activity restrictions and otherwise? Here are some basics.
Who’s Has Authority Over Student?
When a student is at school, they are in the care of that school and its personnel.
The school is said to stand “in loco parentis,” which means the school staff substitute for parents. School personnel can thus take actions a parent might, including punishing and directing the student.
What is School Discipline?
“School discipline” is a general term that covers all punishments that a school can issue to a student. These can range from a quick redirection to school expulsion, and everything in between.
Many school punishments are authorized by state law and school district policy, and may be contained in school handbooks or online.
What are Demerits?
Demerits are basically negative points which may be assigned to a student who commits minor wrongs, in a school which has a merit/demerit point system for student behavior.
Some schools restrict students from certain privileges or activities, or may assign punishments if a student gets too many demerits.
In private schools, a demerit may have more significant consequences depending on the school, such as the assignment of a detention when a student gets one demerit. It depends on the school.
Students often can earn merits to make up their demerits, thus allowing them to earn back any restricted privileges.
What is a Detention?
A school detention is a punishment where a student has to go to a certain school location and stay for a time period after committing a minor wrong. Detentions are often held after school.
If a student does not serve a detention, they may receive another one (one detention turns into two). Sometimes unserved detentions may change to a Saturday school, or even a suspension, if too many are unserved.
Whether schools can impose a detention during recess or lunch, is questionable.
What is a Saturday School?
A Saturday school is a forced detention on the weekend. It is often for a student who has multiple detentions or a minor offense.
Saturday schools can last an entire Saturday morning or all day. If a student does not serve the Saturday school, sometimes schools can suspend them from school.
What is an In House Suspension?
An in house suspension (aka IHSS), or supervised suspension, is when a student is suspended (excluded from class) but serves the suspension at the school. While on an IHSS, the student may be kept in a room with a supervisor and other students. Sometimes students are kept in the school office under supervision.
While on an IHSS, the student does not have access to their regular instruction, but should be provided with work to complete, or may be able to do homework.
What is a Suspension?
A suspension is when a student commits a wrong that is suspendable, and is thereafter held out of school up to five schooldays in a row.
What is an Activity or Senior Activity Restriction?
Sometimes a student may receive a limitation on their ability to attend certain school activities, like dances, sports events or otherwise. This restriction may continue for a short or long period. These types of restrictions, if issued, usually accompany a suspension-level, or higher, offense.
Activity restrictions are sometimes issued to twelfth graders who get suspended. In this situation, a school may impose extra restrictions on the student just because they are a senior and did something wrong. These senior restrictions may limit a student from walking at graduation, attending senior ball, senior picnic, the senior trip, or other senior activities.
What is an Extended Suspension?
An extended suspension starts after an initial 1-5 day suspension ends and applies to students up for expulsion.
The extended suspension, if issued, continues the student’s out of school suspension until a school board decision on an expulsion occurs.
What is an Involuntary Transfer?
Involuntary transfers are school imposed student transfers to continuation schools or to other comprehensive (regular) schools within the school district. These transfers can extend up to two semesters.
What is an Expulsion?
A school expulsion is a longer term exclusion from school. It has to be preceded by an expulsion hearing or a parent waiver of the expulsion hearing. Expulsion must be approved by the school board to be valid.
A student can be expelled from one semester, up to a full calendar year, depending on the type of offense the student committed.
What is a Suspended Expulsion?
A suspended expulsion is an expulsion which is supposed to be probationary.
Depending on the school district, while on a suspended expulsion a student may be allowed to return to their school or attend a different regular school in the district. However, many school districts still exclude a student from a regular school site, even on a suspended expulsion.
Michelle Ball is an education attorney assisting students with school and college discipline troubles. As a student lawyer with an office in Sacramento, California, she represents students from Carmichael to Dunsmuir, Whittier to Lincoln, Sebastopol to Hemet, and throughout the Golden State.