Last Updated on July 15, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
Did you ever have something stolen from you at school? I did- some really cool new gym shoes from my PE (Physical Education) locker. I was so sad! What about the student who stole them? What if the student got caught? If the stealing student was identified, they could be suspended or expelled from school and end up in a much worse place.
Stealing Versus Robbery by a Student- What’s the Difference?
Stealing and robbery are both prohibited in schools. Are stealing and robbing different? Yes.
In extremely simple terms, student stealing (aka theft) is taking another student’s or person’s stuff without their permission. Robbery is the same thing but the item is taken by the student under threat of force or using force.
Student Stealing and Robbery Are Prohibited
California law provides schools with the power to punish students for stealing or robbing.
Per California Education Code section 48900, a student may be suspended or expelled for either of the following:
(e) Committed or attempted to commit robbery or…
(g) Stole or attempted to steal school property or private property.
If caught, a student can be suspended or expelled from an elementary, middle or high school.
Examples of Student Stealing
Here are some common student stealing scenarios:
- A student removing and keeping something from a locker that is not theirs
- Taking a student cell phone or electronic device
- Snagging something from the school cafeteria without paying
- Removing/taking someone else’s homework without their consent
- Running off with another student’s food or lunch
- Taking money from another student’s wallet, purse, etc.
Examples of Student Robbery
Robbery is a tad more serious in that it involves some form of student threat. Examples of student robbery could be:
- Telling a student they will be beat up if they don’t give the student their lunch money and taking the money
- Pushing a student against a school wall and taking their cell phone
- Making someone turn over their shoes under threat of harming them
- Grabbing a student’s bike on the way home from school after scaring them and leaving with it.
You get the idea.
Impact When Students Are Caught
Either robbery or stealing can start with a 1-5 day student suspension from school, depending on school policies.
An expulsion recommendation for stealing is discretionary, not mandatory.
With robbery however, an expulsion recommendation is mandatory, but the school can choose not to proceed depending on the student or circumstances.
It is also conceivable that other charges could be levied against student thieves in the above scenarios, such as charging a student with intimidation, threats of harm, or other school offenses which could support additional punishment.
Students May Not Understand These Are Not Small Matters
I often find that parents presume students know not to steal or rob others. Parents should not presume anything.
Parents should sit with students and discuss what could happen if they steal or rob in schools. Students could end up at a continuation school, be expelled, and maybe never return to their home school with their friends.
Is it really worth taking that cell phone? Past wrongs stick with us, regardless of getting caught.
Parents can help students avoid future guilt and trouble simply by guiding and counseling them in advance. If we all do this, maybe schools will be safer places for all and we can all keep our shoes.
Student discipline lawyer Michelle Ball helps parents with suspensions and expulsions throughout California. As an attorney in Sacramento, Michelle can support students in Orange, Redwood City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Roseville, Auburn, Elk Grove, Davis, Santa Cruz and other locations.