Controlled Substance Offenses Can Lead To Devastating School Discipline


controlled substances school expulsion

Last Updated on August 20, 2021 by Michelle Ball

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

Frequently, parents are slammed with a terrible situation: their child is up for school discipline, such as expulsion or suspension, for possession or sales of controlled substances, aka drugs.  Here are the basics.

What Is a Controlled Substance?

Controlled Substances are generally defined in the California Health and Safety Codes §11053-§11058.  You can read this code at your leisure (maybe when you want to fall asleep) but it covers all the usual suspects, such as cocaine, cannabis/marijuana, heroine, ecstasy, speed, etc., and prescribed substances, such as Ritalin, Codeine, Oxycodone and other medications.

girl hiding doing drugs at school
Drug possession or sales can result in suspension or expulsion from school

What Is Prohibited for Students?

Students are prohibited from carrying, storing, ingesting, passing along, or selling (etc.) controlled substances.  If a student is caught doing any of the above by a school, they will usually, at a minimum, be suspended.  The student may also be placed up for expulsion, even on a first offense.  

No Expulsion When Having Controlled Substances?

Expulsion could be avoided if a student merely possessed a controlled substance for which they have a prescription, in an amount that is not suspicious (e.g. not 60 loose pills when they only need 1 a day) or if they possess less than one ounce of marijuana.

Sales of a Controlled Substance Means Immediate Exclusion

If a student sells a controlled substance, the school has no discretion at all on whether to place them up for expulsion. California state law mandates that the student must be put up for expulsion for drug sales. The student must be expelled if it is proven they sold drugs.  There may still be some discretion in what type of expulsion a student receives.

Negotiation of School Drug Offenses IS Possible

Negotiations for the least possible punishment can be attempted, even with drug sales. A parent may try to get an involuntary transfer, or a suspended expulsion which would eventually be taken off the student’s records. The seriousness of the drug offense and the typical practices of the school district may effect what can be negotiated for a student.

Drugs lead to expulsion and suspension from school
Marijuana is a controlled substance on school campuses

What Is a Drug Sale? 

In loose terms, drug sales are when money or another item is exchanged for a controlled substance, whether the student takes a profit or not.

Did the Student NOT Sell Drugs As He Did NOT Take Money?

I frequently have parents in my office saying their child did not sell drugs so they should be able to defend the expulsion easily.   Here is the situation (their child is Student B):

Student A gives money to Student B
Student B gives money to Student C
Student C takes money
Student C gives drugs to Student B
Student B gives Student A the drugs
Student B does not keep money or drugs

Is Student B selling?  What do you think?

Student B “Did not sell!” the parents say.  “He did not profit so this is not a sale.” The arguments around this are extremely weak as the student did exchange drugs for money.  Profit is not required.

Such conduct can warrant a mandatory expulsion recommendation for drug sales.

drug sales and possession at school is prohibited
Students should not offer, possess, or sell controlled substances or their future can be severely impacted

Criminal Charges Can Follow School Drug Sales

Criminal charges may also not be far behind when the school district reports the alleged sales to the police. Whether that case proceeds is separate from the school matter.

Talk To Students Before They Possess or Sell a Controlled Substance

The bottom line is that students need to be spoken to about not buying, selling or brokering sales of controlled substances, or they could have serious punishment coming.  Drugs are usually pretty easy to get in schools, and suspension and expulsion are not far behind.

The peer pressure to “help” someone find drugs, to ingest this or smoke that, can be tremendous.  High school is not forever.  The future awaits and it may be seriously tarnished if a student drug suspension or expulsion moves forward.

[originally issued November 13, 2013]


School suspension, discipline and expulsion lawyer Michelle Ball can help when drug allegations come up at school. Being a student discipline attorney in Sacramento, Michelle Ball can assist statewide in places such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Roseville, Vacaville, Elk Grove, and other California locations.

1 thought on “Controlled Substance Offenses Can Lead To Devastating School Discipline”

  1. Mom says:

    What if a student or students get caught smoking a electronic ciggerare and the school officer sees them but only calls one student out. Sends him to principle and principle searches back pack and finds a burned tin foil and suspends student for nine days. But has no officer or report or nothing for student or parent to sign.

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