Law Office of Michelle Ball Big 5 Offenses,Discipline,Ed 48900s When Is School Expulsion Mandatory in California Public Schools?

When Is School Expulsion Mandatory in California Public Schools?


Last Updated on July 20, 2022 by Michelle Ball

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

School expulsion is NOT something any parent wants their child to endure.  To be removed entirely from a school district and to then have to attend a “bad” school is not a fun process.  A permanent black mark is placed on the student’s record which may come up later in life, including when completing college applications.  

As such, it is good to know WHEN an expulsion is MANDATORY for a school district. In other words, when does a school district have no choice but to recommend expulsion and thereafter expel a student?

brandishing knife mandates expulsion
Brandishing a knife is another mandatory expulsion offense

What Offenses Trigger a Mandatory Expulsion from School?

In California there are only five categories where a public school student MUST be expelled.  Please see Education Code §48915(c) for more specifics:

1)  Possessing, selling or furnishing a firearm.

2)  Brandishing a knife at another person.
3)  Unlawfully selling a controlled substance.
4)  Committing or attempting to commit a sexual assault or committing a sexual battery.
5)  Possession of an explosive.

These are the Big 5 offenses.  IF a school district can prove at an expulsion hearing (to a panel of school district employees) that one of these occurred, they are legally obligated to expel the student.

Attendance Options After School Expulsion for a Big 5 Offense

If a student is expelled under §48915(c), for explosives, sexual battery, or otherwise, the only attendance options (unless negotiated otherwise prior to expulsion) are to attend a county community school, juvenile court school or community day school (see §48915.2), which are environments most parents would prefer to avoid. 

Which Schools Must Expel Students for these Mandatory Expulsion Offenses

All public elementary, middle, and high schools must expel students for any of the above mandatory expulsion offenses.  

Sexual battery is a mandatory expulsion offense
Sexual battery is a mandatory expulsion offense in schools

How Long Will a School Expulsion Continue?

How long a student expulsion under §48915(c), for brandishing a knife, selling a controlled substance, a gun, etc. will continue, will depend on the hearing outcome, and/or the negotiations prior to the expulsion hearing.  

The legal maximum an expulsion under §48915(c) may continue is a full calendar year. The minimum is not delineated in code, but would likely be 1 semester and/or what a parent negotiates

What Can Cause the Expulsion Time Period to Go Longer?

When a student is expelled, they are provided with a “Rehabilitation Plan” which will contain various terms the student has to meet prior to returning to school after expulsion.  If the Rehabilitation Plan is not met or there is a breach of the rehabilitation plan during expulsion, this can cause the expulsion time period to extend until the student’s terms are met.  

Negotiation of Expulsion Terms Can Change Outcomes

It IS possible to shorten the one year expulsion mandate and negotiate and/or receive a lesser time period, or even a different type of expulsion (e.g. suspended expulsion rather than full expulsion).  Whether this is possible will depend on the student, the district, the school board and any pre-expulsion negotiations.  

Mandatory expulsions are traumatic
Expulsion terms can be lessened via skilled negotiations with schools before the student expulsion hearing

Parents will best be served by thoroughly understanding the ramifications of any mandatory expulsion and all potential student outcomes. 

Parents may want to see if they can negotiate a more positive expulsion outcome for the student prior to moving to the expulsion hearing, where the outcome can be very uncertain.  If not, the student will be at the mercy of a panel of biased school district employees.


Sacramento expulsion lawyer Michelle Ball helps students and parents with expulsions, expulsion appeals, suspensions and other discipline problems. Student attorney Michelle Ball can assist across California, including in the Bay Area, Berkeley, Napa, Vacaville, Fairfield, Folsom, Cameron Park, Roseville, Auburn, Folsom, Granite Bay and many other areas.

[originally published 1/7/11]