Last Updated on August 24, 2023 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
School expulsions can be devastating for students, emotionally and otherwise, ending up with students sent to a continuation school and permanently marring their records. It is important to know what NOT to do when fighting for a student’s future at an expulsion hearing.
Here are some things parents should NOT do at a school expulsion hearing.
1) Do Not Make the School’s Case For Them Via a Confession
Parents should make the school district prove the expulsion case with evidence, not do it for them. Providing a student confession (if not provided earlier), via the accused student’s hearing testimony, just helps the school win their expulsion case.
In California, the school district has the burden of proof at an expulsion hearing and no student can be forced to testify.
The decision of whether a student testifies or not at their own expulsion hearing is highly fact dependent.
This decision may depend on the level of proof the school has, whether the parents will appeal any expulsion, if the expulsion hearing will involve simply a “mercy plea,” if there is a prior confession (such as during the initial investigation), and other factors. If there IS a prior student confession, as often there is, this may lessen the impact of the student testifying.
Strong caution is advised when making the decision whether an accused student should testify.
2) Do Not Forget to Object to Improper Evidence
Unfortunately, a lot of things can come into a California expulsion hearing as “evidence,” including hearsay (he said she said) and written student statements, taken as fact.
However, if a school district attempts to admit evidence which is clearly improper or irrelevant, parents should not stay silent. Rather, parents should speak up and ask for it to be excluded, or if the item is admitted into evidence, express their objections to it.
Knowing what is allowed and not allowed will be important for a parent, when preparing for an expulsion hearing.
3) Do Not Get Overly Emotional at the Hearing, if Possible
If a parent is presenting arguments at a student’s expulsion hearing, they should try to keep strong emotions under control, particularly anger. Parents don’t want to alienate the school expulsion panel or the school board which is determining the student’s expulsion matter.
Parents should never yell or raise voices, regardless of the frustration level at the school expulsion hearing.
Logic and reason, along with good persuasive arguments, should be used rather than emotion, to support the student facing expulsion.
4) Do Not Forget to Submit All Necessary Documents
Parents usually can submit documents to help the student’s defense before, or even at, the expulsion hearing.
It is critical that all supportive documents be submitted timely, are well written, thorough and easy to digest for the student’s expulsion panel.
5) Do Not Take it Personally
The school expulsion hearing may feel personal, but parents should try not to take it that way. Schools expel a lot of students, and sometimes they legally HAVE to move forward. It usually has nothing to do with how much school staff like or dislike the student.
All people involved in a school expulsion, including parents and the student themselves, need to act professionally at all times, or the expulsion panel or school board may tune them out.
6) Do Not Forget the District is Not Being “Nice”
Although everyone on the school’s side may be outwardly polite, the school and district are trying to expel the student. If they were not, the school district would have dropped or negotiated the expulsion matter before the hearing.
School and district staff are not the student’s or parents’ friends. During the expulsion process, sadly, school and district staff should be considered by parents as the student’s “enemy,” aka people who are working against the student.
Parents should not go into an expulsion hearing naively, believing that the expulsion panel will send the student back to school as, “He is a good kid who just made one mistake!” Thinking a student will win based on sympathy or understanding, is a mistake.
This is expulsion “business” and the student can be expelled, even by a smiling friendly school district expulsion panel, if the parent cannot persuade them otherwise.
7) Do Not Forget to Bring Witnesses and Others to Testify, If Appropriate
Parents can invite students or others to the expulsion hearing to support the student’s defense. If parents cannot get a hold of potential expulsion hearing witnesses, in California, subpoenas can be sought from the school district, prior to the hearing.
Parents can also bring in a character witness to talk about how wonderful the accused student is.
Sometimes parents may bring “experts” who can discuss certain aspects of the situation. For example, someone could testify as to whether the matter really is a hate crime or address dangerousness issues raised in the allegations.
Parents need to prepare themselves well and manage the expulsion properly to get the best outcome for the student. If not, a school expulsion can leave an expelled student adrift and with a negative mark in their record.
8) Do Not Neglect Preparation
As with all things in life, preparation before the expulsion hearing is vital.
Knowledge of the expulsion system and rules is imperative for anyone entering the school expulsion gauntlet.
Knowing all relevant school board policies and California laws regarding expulsions can make the difference between no student expulsion, and the worst possible expulsion being issued.
Student lawyer Michelle Ball helps California parents and students fight expulsions and defend against many school discipline matters. Being a centrally located attorney, in Sacramento California, means parents in Lodi, Stockton, Tahoe, Oakland, Redwood City, Elk Grove, Roseville, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and many other towns may involve her in their school discipline matters.
originally published 2/5/12