Law Office of Michelle Ball Big 5 Offenses,Discipline,Ed 48900s,Federal Laws,Weapons Explosives in School Trigger School Expulsions

Explosives in School Trigger School Expulsions


Yellow triangular sign with explosive on it

Last Updated on July 25, 2022 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

One sure way to be recommended for expulsion from a California school is to bring explosives in a student backpack. Students should not give pipe bombs to other students, make Molotov cocktails and sell them to students at school, bring a grenade, or injure other students by bringing something that blows up.

Student with backpack against blue and pink wall, female, looking down
Student backpacks can hold bad surprises, which can get them expelled.

Possession of Explosives Is a Mandatory Expulsion Offense

Possession of explosives falls within California’s “Big 5” expulsion offenses. Big five offenses are mandatory expulsion offenses in California schools.

Per Education Code section 48900(b),  students may be suspended or expelled for possessing, selling or furnishing an explosive. Another section, Education Code 48915(c)(5), however, makes possession of an explosive a mandatory expulsion offense.

(c) The principal or superintendent of schools shall immediately suspend, pursuant to Section 48911, and shall recommend expulsion of a pupil that he or she determines has committed any of the following acts at school or at a school activity off school grounds…

(5) Possession of an explosive.

Schools will remove a student with a pipe bomb at school immediately, and may expel the student.

Education Code “Explosives” are Defined in Federal Law

Graphic of army grenade
Grenades should not be brought to schools

Per Education Code 48915 (h), an “explosive” is equivalent to a “destructive device” as defined in the United States Code (18 USC 921), which states:

(4) The term “destructive device” means

(A) any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas-

(i) bomb,

(ii) grenade,

(iii) rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces,

(iv) missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce,

(v) mine, or

(vi) device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses;

(B) any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell which the Attorney General finds is generally recognized as particularly suitable for sporting purposes) by whatever name known which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one-half inch in diameter; and

(C) any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any destructive device described in subparagraph (A) or (B) and from which a destructive device may be readily assembled.

Explosives May Mean Expulsion for One Calendar Year

Youth with hoodie on, sitting with head on knees
Students expelled for explosives may still get a suspended expulsion, at the school district’s discretion

A student found guilty of a Big 5 offense, such as possession of an explosive, may be expelled a maximum of a full calendar year. So, if an expulsion is approved by a board of education on January 1, 2023, it continues until January 1, 2024.

Of course, expulsion panels or boards of education may expel for less time, including one or two semesters. Or, an expulsion panel can find a student not guilty and return the student to school.

Students May Still Receive a Suspended Expulsion

Even if a student is found to have possessed an explosive, the student may still receive a suspended expulsion. Suspended expulsions tend to be better than full expulsions.

In some schools, a student may even return to their home school on a suspended expulsion, but this is rare. A student who receives a suspended expulsion may later petition to try to get the expulsion expunged.

What if an “Explosive” is Not Actually an Explosive?

A few years ago in Texas, a student was reportedly arrested and suspended for bringing a homemade clock to school. School staff mistook the clock for a bomb. As this was in Texas, he was not up for expulsion.

Despite the student’s punishment, the student was quickly redeemed, as the “explosive” was only a homemade clock. The student made the clock, ironically, to impress his teachers.

Picture of a building fire
Explosive devices can start deadly fires in schools

It was terrible what occurred to the student, but teachers are paranoid. In today’s day and age school staff overreport their suspicions. As a result, innocent students get swept into the discipline system.

Students Do Bring Explosives to Schools

Unfortunately, students may bring destructive devices to schools. Explosives may even be located when investigating alleged school shooting plots.

Explosives sometimes blow up in schools and harm students and others, launching a student into an intense expulsion hearing and possibly even an arrest.


California student attorney and advocate Michelle Ball has helped with suspension, expulsion and school discipline for decades. As an attorney centrally located in Sacramento, Michelle reaches statewide to Fresno, Riverside, Los Angeles, Napa, Nevada City, Elk Grove, Natomas, Carmichael and other California locations.