Law Office of Michelle Ball Discipline,Discipline hearings,Ed 48900s The Exclusive Club That Is The School Expulsion Panel

The Exclusive Club That Is The School Expulsion Panel

Picture of gate with "Crew Only" sign

Last Updated on April 5, 2024 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

In PR (public relations), one old adage is “know your audience.” Just WHO are you trying to sell something to or convince? With students facing expulsion, the people they need to sell their innocence to are the school expulsion panel members. Unfortunately, membership is exclusive and controlled by the entity expelling the student- the school district.

Who are these folks that hold the entire future of the student in their hands? Let’s find out.

Expulsion Panel Membership Is EXCLUSIVE

A padlock on a gate, with a lock
Membership to school expulsion panels is exclusive

School expulsion panels are exclusive clubs and you have to know the right people and work in the right place to belong. Only some special people can belong to an expulsion panel. This includes ONLY current certificated employees of a school district who do not work at the school where the soon-to-be expelled student attends. School board members are also excluded.

So, who does this potential pool of expellers include? Teachers, principals, vice principals, or any school district employee who need a certificate to have their job.

As such, expulsion panels usually are composed of vice principals or teachers. Once in a while a district office staff member may join the crew to expel a student.

Are Expulsion Panels Stacked with Punitive-School Staff?

Presumably, expulsion panel member selections are made randomly, but it may depend on the school district. Are they stacked to be more punitive? Maybe sometimes.

At times, it seems school districts may not make the most objective selections for a student’s expulsion panel. When a student sees three vice principals (the staff who usually suspend students) hearing their expulsion matter, it can make them wonder: why are there only VP’s (the punishers!) here judging me? It’s a little suspicious.

Am I saying all school districts stack the deck? No. But, if it seems true, maybe it is. Districts expelling students control expulsion panel membership, and they can increase their chances of success if they stack the deck.

Black teen male student looking up
Student expulsion panel members are gatekeepers who are not always friendly.

So, no, not every school district stacks the deck, but occasionally, I think they do. If you wanted to be sure a “bad” kid got booted, and you were not concerned about being fair, would you?

Do Expulsion Panel Members Change For Each Expulsion Hearing?

In my experience, panel members seem to change from hearing to hearing.

However, I have encountered some school districts which have expulsion hearing panel members assigned for a certain set time period (e.g. quarterly or per semester) to hear expulsions for that time period. When their time ends, a new group of expulsion hearing panel members takes over.

Having a set panel to review all expulsions seems more unfair, as the expulsion panel may then preside over different student hearings on the same incident. If this happens, panel members would then receive evidence from another hearing that the current student may not be privy to.

This could unfairly influence their expulsion determination.

Big Powers of Expulsion Panel Members

The school employees on expulsion panels are quite powerful. They get to hear all evidence and decide the fate of the student up for expulsion.

Teen with rainbow hair and red shirt
Know your audience- the expulsion panel determines students futures.

They also can negatively influence how the expulsion hearing goes. They sometimes run their hearings poorly, treating parents like they are ignorant, minimizing them, cutting them off, unfairly limiting their time to present the student’s arguments, and just generally providing an unfair or biased expulsion hearing.

Expulsion panel members have the power to change a student’s life, and decide if they will recommend NO expulsion, a suspended expulsion, or a full expulsion. They also can determine the length that punishment may extend. Expulsion panels can send a student back to school quick, or keep them out a long time.

Expulsion panel members tell the school board what punishment the student should receive and school boards usually blindly accept those recommendations.

It is a true power position.

Why Are Expulsion Panels Not Objective, Like A Judge?

The California legislature set up the school expulsion process and describes the process and procedures in state law. They decided that school districts expelling the student get to decide who will be on a student’s expulsion panel.

Unfortunately, because of this, expulsion panel members are naturally poised against students who come before them. Panel members are scared of school shootings, fights, violence, and are often jaded, as they are school district employees. They walk into expulsion hearings with preconceived notions about a student’s guilt.

AI black female judge looking sideways, hands interlaced
Expulsion panels are not objective, like a judge would be

Presenting to an expulsion to a panel is not like presenting a matter to an objective trial judge. Instead, panel members already believe one side is correct: the school side.

Panel members also often know each other, socialize at school events, and may even go to barbecues or parties together. They know their peer group (other staff in the school district) will blame them personally if something bad happens because they let a “bad” student off.

This is unfortunate.

Expulsion hearings can still be won, even with exclusive biased membership controlled by the school district. But, it is just a bigger uphill battle for a student then parents may suspect. Students have a tough road when facing a school expulsion panel.

Student attorney Michelle Ball has helped students as an attorney since 1995. This Sacramento California lawyer assists parents facing the school expulsion process, which is often confusing and difficult. She assists throughout the Golden State, from Pleasanton to Roseville, Los Angeles to Santa Rosa, border to border, and everywhere in between.