Last Updated on March 17, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
School expulsions can be devastating for students, emotionally and otherwise, ending up with kids sent to a continuation school and damaging college entrance chances. It is important to know what NOT to do when parents are fighting for their child’s future at an expulsion hearing.
Here are some things parents should NOT do at a school expulsion hearing:
1) Consider not allowing your child to testify if they have not already confessed. Make the school district prove their case, and don’t do it for them. The school district has the burden of proof and no child is mandated to testify. The testimony decision is highly fact dependent and there is no black and white rule. Whether the student speaks at hearing may depend on the level of proof the school has, whether the parents will appeal, if the hearing will involve simply a “mercy plea,” and other factors. Caution is advised in making this decision.
2) Do not forget to object to improper evidence. If the school district attempts to admit evidence which should not be allowed into the hearing (e.g. evidence from another student who was not there), parents must not stay silent. Rather, parents should speak up and ask for it to be disallowed, or if the item was already admitted into evidence, have it immediately taken out of the record.
3) Do not get emotional at the hearing if possible. If a parent is the one making the arguments at the expulsion hearing, he or she should attempt to keep strong emotions under control, particularly anger. Parents don’t want to alienate whomever is judging the child’s expulsion matter, so logic and reason should be used to defend the student. Parents should never yell or raise voices, regardless of the frustration level at the hearing.
4) Do not forget to prepare opening and closing statements and witness questions. Parents usually can make an opening and closing statement, plus question any and all witnesses at the hearing. However, in the heat of the moment, parents may forget something critical, so a good outline should be developed with all legal and factual arguments as well as questions for anticipated witnesses.
5) Do not forget to submit documents. Parents should submit character letters in support of their child, along with any other documentary evidence which proves innocence. Parents may also want to consider submitting a document which persuasively argues their defenses.
6) Do not take it personally. The school expulsion hearing may feel personal, but don’t take it that way. Act professionally at all times or the review panel may tune you out.
7) Do not forget the district is not being “nice.” Although everyone on the other side may be outwardly polite, the school and district are trying to expel the student. If they were not, they would have dropped or negotiated the matter before the hearing. Parents cannot go into an expulsion hearing naively believing that everyone will understand once they get there, or they will win due to sympathy for their child.
8) Don’t forget to bring witnesses to support your case. Parents should bring students or others to the hearing to support the student’s defense via live testimony. If parents cannot get a hold of witnesses, subpoenas can be sought from the district prior to the hearing.
Parents need a little luck and good management skills when battling the lions trying to expel a child. If not, a school expulsion can leave an expelled child adrift and with a black mark they may never get over.
[published 2/5/12, updated 5/5/20]
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.