Last Updated on January 10, 2024 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
When a student in elementary, middle or high school faces removal from their school and school district (aka a school expulsion), they need to know their enemies. One of these enemies could be a group the family least expects: the school expulsion hearing panel.
What is a School Expulsion Hearing Panel?
The school expulsion hearing panel is a group of individuals granted the authority to hear a school expulsion case, receive evidence and decide if a student should be expelled from the school district or not.
Nowadays, so many students are expelled, that school boards need help managing the workload. Expulsion panels exist to help school boards boot kids out.
With a panel appointed, a school board does not have to waste their time reviewing discipline matters or evidence to see if a student actually deserves to be banned from attending school. It’s much easier to just let someone else decide, right? (sigh)
Not all school districts have these panels, particularly small rural school districts, but most do.
There are typically three members on this expulsion hearing panel.
What Enemies Are On a School Expulsion Hearing Panel?
Per Education Code section 48918(d), an expulsion hearing panel member may include any person who works in the school district, with the following exceptions:
- A panel member cannot work at the school where the student being expelled attends.
- An expulsion panel member cannot be a member of the board of education
This means that almost everyone working in a school district can be on a student’s expulsion panel. This includes principals, vice principals, teachers, secretaries, or other staff from any in-district school (other than where the student attends).
Sadly, school hearing panel members can include jaded disciplinarians who regularly punish students in their schools, such as vice principals or even staff from the discipline office.
Why Are Panel Members Enemies of Students?
Why do I say that expulsion panel members are the enemies of students?
- They work in the District trying to expel the student
- They have inherent bias in favor of the school district expelling the student, which is their employer
- They are afraid of what their peers (school district/school staff) will think if they don’t expel a student, particularly students who are alleged to have done something very “serious,” like making threats against the school district or staff
- They are afraid there could be community uproar, backlash, and the school district may be negatively viewed or attacked by community members if they don’t expel a student
- They are afraid they will be fired or retaliated against if they don’t do what the district, their employer, wants
- They are not always honorable enough to overcome these fears
- They are often disciplinarians, or have a jaded view of students’ innocence
- They care little about the student, who has nothing to do with them
- They sometimes make up their minds up before they arrive
- They accept hearsay (he said she said) as fact
- They are untrained on how to properly handle an expulsion hearing
- They don’t know the laws or policies which apply
- They often circle the wagons to protect their peers
- They think the very unfair expulsion process is fair to an accused student, when it clearly is not
- They are biased and not objective
- They don’t give kids “fair shakes” or second chances
- They don’t offer alternatives to expulsion
- They often treat parents like uneducated oafs
- They ignore the law
- They make bad and inconsistent rulings
- They may lie
- Need I go on?
What Parents and Students Can Do About It?
To combat the student’s enemies on the panel which determines their fate, parents and students need to make the best case they can.
Students and parents should gather as much valid evidence as possible to show they are innocent. They can bring in witnesses, therapists, police officers, community leaders and others to try to disprove the expulsion case or prove the character of the student. Parents can argue well, be persuasive and demonstrate, even to a biased panel, the student did not do it or that they deserve mercy.
Students and parents should appeal to the hearts of the hearing panel members to overcome their inherent bias.
Once parents know the hidden enemies who may be lurking, they can fight them and win for the student.
Knowing your enemies is not such as bad thing, after all.
Michelle Ball has been an education attorney helping students since the mid-1990s. As an experienced lawyer going against schools and colleges and fighting to keep students in school, she can assist when trouble arrives, in Bakersfield, Oakland, San Jose, Auburn, Roseville, Tahoe, Stockton, and all across California.