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
Gaslighting is bad, and especially bad when it involves kids and students. Unfortunately, gaslighting is incredibly common in student discipline and school investigations.
Gaslighting in Student Discipline
Here are some examples of gaslighting I have seen in California schools involving student discipline.
A student who is communicating serious threats, diverts attention to another student, blaming them. The school treats the actual wrongdoer as a “hero,” while the innocent student is wrongly put up for expulsion and maligned in the community via a school letter.
A VP informs parents that as another student reported a wrong first (even if the student lied), the VP believes that student. This common “first reporter” is always right delusion gets the innocent student punished.
Parents (or students) are told they have to sign an agreement (or statement), such as a confession, or they can’t leave the room.
A student who reports a wrong done to them, has the script flipped and they are investigated and falsely accused of being in a gang.
Gaslighting About Student Expulsions
More gaslighting occurs when a student is in the school expulsion process.
A Vice Principal (VP) informs a parent that the VP will help a student by advocating against a student’s expulsion. The parent believes the VP’s lie. Later, when the parent gets to the expulsion hearing, the VP demands the student be expelled. The VP denies they ever told the parent they supported the student.
School staff tell parents that they will get a worse expulsion outcome if they hire an attorney. This confuses the parents, who never get legal help. Sadly, the student is then expelled.
At an expulsion hearing only negative character evidence is admitted despite requests by parents. Positive reports from the student’s teacher, friends, and testimony from a family member, who is a parole officer, are excluded by the hearing officer. Parents are treated as if they don’t have a right to defend the student or prove the student’s good character at the expulsion hearing.
Before the expulsion hearing, the administrator lies, telling parents that the student probably won’t be expelled. The expulsion hearing is “just a formality.” The parent trusts the school administrator, and the student is expelled.
Due to a friendship with a family, or some preference for a student, a school does not punish that student when they get in a fight. However, the school punishes other students who were involved in the same fight.
Gaslighting in School Investigations
More gaslighting can occur during school investigations.
A school staff member tells a parent “the Superintendent did it.” Then the Superintendent says “the school staff member did it!” The student is harmed as a result of the decision “someone” made.
A VP says that school cameras are not working, so they cannot investigate a situation. Yet, the cameras are accessed in 5 minutes by another school staff member. The first staff member mysteriously still can’t access the cameras to conclude their investigation. The denial continues for an extended period, to the detriment of the student.
A Uniform Complaint investigation report fails to address a parent’s complaints and instead accuses the parent of making up false allegations, when the parent’s allegations are valid. It is not uncommon for school or district “investigations” not to find the truth, as schools believe putting the truth in writing can harm the school.
A student’s statement is dictated by a VP, and the student is forced to write it out and sign it, despite it being untrue or only partially true. Later, when the parent tries to say the statement was false, the school calls it a “confession.”
A student is punished for failing to write a statement.
Gaslighting can be prevalent in schools. Parents need to watch out for this, and be cautious.
Michelle Ball, attorney for students, helps families deal with school gaslighting. As a student lawyer in Sacramento, she can get involved from San Diego to Sonora, San Francisco to Davis, Tahoe, Auburn, Citrus Heights, and anywhere in California students may need her.
More on Gaslighting: Gaslighting By School Staff: Is Honesty A Lost Value?