Last Updated on May 1, 2023 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
When can students be held back (aka retained) in California public schools? What grades could this occur and what are the legal mandates?
California Schools Hate To Retain Kids
Schools won’t often retain a student. I don’t know why, it just seems schools would rather pass kids through, despite some being years behind.
It also may be due to the fact that a student who is in special education may be “expected” to be behind, or may keep up through extra classroom accommodations.
Sometimes schools say a student will be socially and emotionally harmed if the student is held back.
Whatever the reason, certain legal requirements MUST be met before a student can be held back a grade in public school.
When Can Students Be Held Back?
California law (Education Code 48070.5) lists certain time periods when students may be held back in school. They are:
- Between second and third grades
- Between third and fourth grades
- Between fourth and fifth grades
- Between the end of elementary or intermediate school and middle school grades, typically sixth and seventh grades
- Between the end of middle school or junior high and high school, typically eighth and ninth grades.
Location of Potential Students to Be Retained
School policies must include a process to identify students who should be retained or who are at risk of being held back a grade.
The discovery of “to be retained” students must be done through standardized testing and review of the student’s grades.
Teachers Can Overrule Retention Decision
Despite identification as a student who should be held back a grade, a teacher may overrule the retention of a student. The teacher must put their decision and its basis in writing.
This recommendation is to be given to the student’s parents.
Parent Notification of Potential Student Retention
Notification to parents must occur as early in the year as practicable and parents are to be given an opportunity to consult with the teacher who determined to promote or retain a student.
Appeal of Retention Decision
There must be a process whereby a parent may appeal any retention decision.
Retention Policy is Mandated
Per the Education Code, all districts must have policies reflecting the above, which usually can be found on school district websites under the “Board” or “School Board” tab/section.
Student lawyer Michelle Ball helps families with all sorts of school and college difficulties. As she is centrally located in Sacramento, she can become involved in matters throughout California in locations such as Elk Grove, Modesto, Hanford, Los Angeles, Fairfield, Auburn, Roseville, and other locations.