Last Updated on October 19, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
Parents may sometimes feel like they are in the Twilight Zone, when it comes to school expulsions. One day, life is rosy, a student at home has a 4.0 gpa (grade point average), has college and job goals, friends, and is into sports. The world may come crashing down with one phone call, when a vice principal says the student will be expelled for selling drugs to some other students. A month later the student is expelled.
Should a parent consider appealing the expulsion? It depends.
Where are Expulsion Appeals Filed?
Unfortunately parents cannot go back and get a new hearing or explain that the student is innocent in the school district. Instead they have to quickly decide if they will appeal.
Appeals are filed with the county board of education where the expelling school district is located. So, if the expulsion was from San Juan Unified School District or Sacramento City Unified School District, in Sacramento county the Sacramento County Office of Education hears expulsion appeals. If a student was expelled from Roseville Unified, or Placer Union High School District, in Placer county, parents file with the Placer County Office of Education, etc.
Expulsion Appeals Have to Be Filed QUICK!
Expulsion appeals must be filed with the county board within thirty (30) days of the board of education decision to expel per Education Code 48919. This is a very quick timeline for anyone to process.
What Happens if a Parent Doesn’t Appeal an Expulsion?
After the shock of the expulsion order blows over, parents deciding if they will appeal an expulsion will want to review the impacts of the expulsion the student received.
Did the student get the harshest possible punishment, of one year for drug sales? Or was the board of education more generous and only expelled the student for one semester?
Where does the expulsion order place the student and what type of expulsion is it: suspended expulsion or regular expulsion? Could it be expunged from the student’s records later?
These questions may impact whether a parent even looks at appealing an expulsion. The other questions are the legal ones, and these often are more important.
What Are the Bases for an Expulsion Appeal?
County Boards of Education will only overturn an expulsion in very limited circumstances, per California Education Code §48922, including:
1) The governing board of the school district acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction, or
2) There was an unfair hearing, or
3) There was a prejudicial abuse of discretion in the hearing, or
4) There was evidence which was improperly excluded or could not have been produced, despite reasonable diligence.
What do these mean? These are mainly fairness arguments and about the procedures followed in the expulsion matter.
Education Code §48922 explains a hearing may be “in excess of jurisdiction” if the hearing was not convened timely, the act(s) alleged were not expellable, or the acts were not somehow school related. An “abuse of discretion” may exist when the hearing findings were unsupported and/or the school did not meet their procedural requirements. These are very complex and narrow arguments.
Situations Where an Expulsion Appeal May be Warranted
Here are some hypothetical fact situations where an expulsion may be worth appealing. Whether to pursue a student appeal is very fact dependent.
1) The expulsion hearing was not convened within 30 schooldays and no time waiver was signed by the parent.
2) Notice of the expulsion hearing was not sent 10 days in advance of the expulsion hearing and no waiver was signed.
3) Only hearsay evidence was presented at the hearing. This could occur if the accused student has not confessed or testified and there were no direct witnesses who testified.
4) The superintendent and/or district representative stayed in the room while the hearing panel or school board deliberated and the parent/student were excluded.
5) The parents were denied their right to present their defense.
6) The charges were not supported by the evidence presented in the case.
7) The family was not advised of their hearing rights as required by the Education Code (e.g. right to have legal counsel, right to question and cross-examine witnesses, etc.)
8) Other reasons?
In every expulsion matter, support for winning the appeal needs to be evaluated prior to proceeding. Sometimes the school has done everything right procedurally and appeal is pointless. Other times, a parent may be shocked to find out how many rights were violated.
Resolving the Expulsion Earlier May Be Better
It is often much better to resolve things early in the expulsion process than after the expulsion hearing has already passed. Such a resolution would make an appeal unnecessary.
Student lawyer Michelle Ball represents students statewide. Being an education attorney in Sacramento, she may become involved in matters anywhere in California, including in Redding, Fort Bragg, Mendocino, Modesto, Hanford, Napa, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Hollywood, the Bay Area, and many other locations.