Last Updated on July 27, 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 expulsion hearings are horrific for parents due to the suddenness and shock of the student’s situation (“expulsion- what?!”), and the lack of experience most parents have in the student expulsion hearing process.
Top this off with school administrators who may tell parents that, “The hearing panel will understand,” (when they won’t) or “You should do the expulsion hearing fast so the student can get back to school,” (when the administrators know that the student probably will be expelled, not returned to school), and other falsehoods to lull parents into a false sense of security.
It is all very difficult to say the least. If parents don’t watch it and get educated, they may end up with a student quickly expelled, and wonder what just happened.
So, I thought it may be a good idea to remind parents of some of their key rights in the California public school expulsion process.
STUDENT RIGHT 1: The Right to an Expulsion Hearing
This is one of the most basic rights of all (see California Education Code Section §48918(a)(1). Many school districts attempt to get parents to waive this right and sign a student “stipulated expulsion” where the parent agrees to the student’s expulsion by quickly signing a document.
Whether this is a good idea will depend on the student’s charges, circumstances, the student’s discipline history, their level of guilt and other factors. But, rule number one is don’t just waive the student’s hearing without considering everything and what the terms of the discipline proposal are.
STUDENT RIGHT 2: The Right to Proper Notice of the Expulsion Hearing
The District has to forward a written hearing notice 10 days prior to any student expulsion hearing date per Education Code §48918(b) with certain mandated notifications included in the hearing notice. The failure of a school district to meet this timeline can be instrumental in getting a school expulsion overturned on appeal.
STUDENT RIGHT 3: The Right to Obtain All Evidence and Documentation Pre-Hearing
Parents need to request the student’s complete educational files, as well as the school district expulsion packet early in the school expulsion process.
Per Education Code §49069.7, parents have the right to all of their child’s records, and per Education Code §48918(b)(5) they have a right to the expulsion records and evidence. I have had parents tell me they did not get the expulsion evidence the school presented at hearing, or the evidence was not received until the student expulsion hearing was held. This omission can be prevented by making a written request for student records and expulsion hearing documents early in the process.
STUDENT RIGHT 4: The Right to Never Have an Expulsion Proceed Based on “Hearsay” Alone
Hearsay is a big thing, and is somewhat complex. Attorneys take a whole year of “Evidence” in law school and hearsay is a very key part of these rules.
There is no way I can fully explain what hearsay is here, but needless to say, generally, if the student did not admit he “did it,” and there are no witnesses at hearing in person who testify to what they saw (excluding an alleged sexual battery/assault victim), generally an expulsion cannot legally proceed, see California Education Code §48918(f)(2), as the student expulsion would then be based on hearsay alone.
School districts break this rule frequently, with student expulsion hearings where no one testifies and no witness says the student “did it” at the hearing itself. I must caution, there are very complex rules around this, what does and does not count as “hearsay,” the allowed process for getting “hearsay” documents admitted as “non-hearsay” etc., but schools often mess this up.
This can be a great reason to overturn a student expulsion on appeal.
STUDENT RIGHT 5: The Right to Not Testify at the Expulsion Hearing
This is a very important right for parents, and whether a family exercises this right, will depend on the situation, and the evidence against the student.
This right stems from the basic right to make decisions with regard to your child which every parent shares. Whether the student should testify is VERY TRICKY TO EVALUATE and sometimes it is good for the student to explain. In other cases, it is not positive for the student to speak at their expulsion hearing, as the student may prove the school’s case for them (what the student says may help the school to expel them).
This is so difficult to determine, that sometimes it cannot be decided whether a student should testify or not, until the school has presented their case at the expulsion hearing itself.
Whether a student should testify has to be evaluated individually based on the facts for the particular student. Most parents think they HAVE TO have the student speak as they are told this by school or district personnel. However this is false.
Parents may even be sneered at or invalidated if they refuse to allow the student to testify, but regardless, the parents are the ones who determine if they will allow the student to testify at an expulsion hearing.
There are many other rights in expulsion hearings, but parents should first get familiar with these five to help the student in the terrible process which school expulsion is for everyone concerned, but most particularly the student.
Student lawyer Michelle Ball helps with improper suspensions, expulsions and school discipline. Located in Sacramento California, attorney Michelle Ball can support students across the state in Roseville, Auburn, Marysville, Yuba City, San Francisco, Fairfield, Stockton, Modesto, Lodi, Bakersfield, San Diego and many more places.