Learn more about the rights of students and families with regard to school discipline.
What is school discipline?
School discipline is how a school responds to student behavior, such as:
- In-school detention
- Student behavior contracts
- Loss of privileges
- Transfers to a different school or a county-run school
When can a school discipline a student?
Students may only be suspended or expelled for something listed in the Education Code. In general, the school must first try to change the student’s behavior another way, like:
- Student/parent conference
- Referral for an evaluation of an unidentified disability
- Referral for counseling
- Anger management
- Community service
- After-school programs
What if a school says a student can avoid discipline by moving to an alternative school?
If a student is being pressured to transfer to an alternative school, the student and parent have rights. They should talk with an attorney before agreeing to a transfer or signing any documents or waivers.
What is a Suspension?
A suspension is a temporary removal from school.
- A student CANNOT be suspended from more than 5 consecutive school days.
- A student CANNOT be suspended for more than 20 total school days in any given school year.
What is an Expulsion?
Removal from all schools in a District for a maximum of one school year.
Can a student be disciplined for absences?
No, a student CANNOT be suspended or expelled for being absent. Parents/guardians have the right to challenge the content of any student record including attendance.
What can I do when a student is recommended for expulsion?
- Request all the student’s records
- Speak to your child and make sure they are included
- If you are invited to a meeting by the school district, ask what type of meeting it will be
- Consider talking with an attorney, a community advocate, or other support person
What are a student’s rights in expulsion cases?
- The student has a right to a hearing within 30 days of the incident.
- If English is not your main language, you have a right to an interpreter and translation of documents.
- You have the right to record expulsion proceedings.
- You have the right to have an attorney or a community advocate.
- You have the right to present, inspect and question evidence at the hearing.
- The school must send written notice of the expulsion to the student and parent, with information about classes that will be provided to the student during expulsion and when/how the student can return to regular class.
Students with Disabilities
Students CANNOT be punished for behavior that is a direct result of their disability. If a student with a disability is disciplined, they have the right to tell their side of the story and other rights to defend themselves.
What if I disagree with a discipline decision?
Suspension: If you disagree with a suspension, write a letter to the Superintendent saying why you disagree and what you want the school to do instead. If your district has other rules for appealing a suspension, follow those rules.
Expulsion: A student has the right to appeal to the County Board of Education.