How Long Can A School Expulsion Go? Q & A


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Last Updated on April 2, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Many times when a public school student faces expulsion, there is confusion about what this means and the length a school expulsion may continue.  Some questions and answers relevant to the length of expulsions in the public school setting, (high school or below) may be helpful to parents.

Is expulsion permanent?  

No.  There is always a listed end date in the expulsion decision.

When can a student return to school after they are expelled?

That depends on the type and length of school expulsion imposed, with the maximum time limited by state law.

How long can a public school expulsion be?  

Maximum 1 year for the most heinous situations, such as selling drugs, firearm issues, sexual assault or battery, brandishing a knife and explosives (Cal Ed Code 48915(c)), sometimes called the “Big 5 Offenses.”

Can a public school expulsion continue beyond the expulsion time period in the expulsion decision?

Yes.  Although the initial expulsion can only go a maximum 1 year for the worst offenses, like drug sales, if a student does not meet readmission (aka rehabilitation) terms when attempting to reenroll, the student may not be readmitted and their exclusion may continue.

What is the maximum length of school expulsion for offenses that are not “Big 5 Offenses?”

Two semesters, starting when the board of education issues their decision, and sometimes starting the semester when the offense occurred.  Examples of school offenses carrying a two semester maximum term include drug possession, sexual harassment, fighting, stealing or theft, damaging school property, threats, extortion, habitual profanity, bullying, receiving stolen school or private property, possession of an imitation firearm, hazing, aiding and abetting (helping) another student to commit great bodily injury, and other offenses. (Cal Ed. Code 48900-48915).

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What is the minimum term of expulsion if a student is found guilty?

One semester, unless the board decides to issue a lesser punishment, such as a behavior contract.

Does the board of education have to expel a student?

Per state law, not unless it is a proven “Big 5 Offense.”  Otherwise, they have discretion to offer alternative punishments as the circumstances warrant.