Law Office of Michelle Ball 48900,expulsion,suspension School Discipline: Expulsion Offenses Which Are Discretionary

School Discipline: Expulsion Offenses Which Are Discretionary


student to be expelled

Last Updated on April 9, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Sometimes, school discipline means a detention. Other times it may mean student expulsion moves forward. Which offenses are discretionary expulsion offenses (meaning the school did not have to recommend expulsion at all)?

Expulsion May Not Always Be Mandatory

When a student does something that breaks school rules, their school vice principal, principal and the school district office hold the cards on whether an expulsion may need to go forward or not. In certain school discipline situations, kids are put up for expulsion when really they did not have to be. This means the state legislature did not MANDATE a student’s recommendation for expulsion in the situation and other school discipline could have been imposed.

What Are Discretionary Expulsion Offenses?

Discretionary expulsion offenses are wrongs for which the student does not legally have to be recommended for expulsion. In other words, the legislature did not say the school HAD to put the student up for such harsh school discipline.

student school punishment
Sometimes alternative school discipline to expulsion is imposed, such as writing a reflective essay

What Offenses Are Discretionary?

Rather than suspending or expelling a student who commits one of the below offenses, a school can implement other school punishments which may actually serve the student and school better.

Suspension and expulsion are not mandatory for the below situations:

1)  Caused attempted or threatened to cause physical injury.
2)  Willful force or violence on another except in self-defense.
3)  First offense of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana or medications prescribed to the student
4)  Under the influence of a controlled substance (unless they count this as possession which carries a mandatory recommendation).
5) Possessed, used, or sold alcohol.
6)  Offering, arranging or negotiating to sell a controlled substance, alcohol,or  intoxicant and delivering a substitute material, representing it as the item.
7) Damage/attempt to damage property
8)  Stealing (but robbery- e.g. stealing with force carries a mandatory recommendation)
9)  Tobacco/nicotine product possession
10)  Obscene act (so long as not sexual assault/battery) or habitual profanity/vulgarity.
11)  Possession, negotiation or sales of drug paraphernalia
12)  Disruption or willful defiance (this is the “catch all” offense) in high school
13)  Knowing receipt of stolen property.
14)  Possession of imitation firearm.
15)  Harassment, threats or intimidation against student witness to prevent testimony or retaliate
16)  Attempt to engage in or engaging in hazing
17)  Bullying including by an electronic act directed specifically toward a pupil or school personnel.
18)  Sexual harassment
19)  Caused or attempted to cause hate violence (grades 4-12)
21)  Intentional harassment, threats or intimidation (grades 4-12)
22)  Terroristic threats (e.g. threats to commit a crime)

This is an abbreviated version of California Education Code sections starting at 48900.

Discretionary Does Not Mean Student Cannot Be Expelled

With these offenses, it is completely up to the school or district’s DISCRETION whether to proceed with suspension OR expulsion or… nothing.  

However, just because these school offenses don’t carry mandated expulsion recommendations in the Education Code does not mean school districts do not put kids up for expulsion for any or all of the above.  They do, and they often put them up under more than one category.