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Know Your Rights: School Discipline

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
  • Suspensions
  • Expulsions
  • 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.

Want more information? Download our Education Manual: A Basic Guide to Students' Rights for Parents and Advocates.


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