Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yes, You Do Need An Attorney For A School Expulsion

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Does a parent really need an attorney to help them resolve and/or represent them at a school expulsion hearing?  Yes, yes and yes!

Expulsions are serious matters and result in a permanent mark on the student's record which can arise later in life, such as during application to college and when attempting to get certain jobs (this even comes up when applying to be an attorney).  Additionally, once expelled, a student cannot return to their school district for a set period of time and may have to attend school in a less savory environment, such as a continuation school.  And, if an expelled student does not meet the "rehabilitation plan" terms in the expulsion, they may never return to that district.

Parents are also going up against folks who "do this for a living" who are ultimately familiar with the expulsion hearing rules and requirements e.g. for witnesses, for evidence, for procedure, and for winning.  Parents are usually new to the whole expulsion process and this is a distinct disadvantage.  Its a bit of a David and Goliath type of situation.

Parents also must not presume a district will "see reason" if they just hear their story.  I have too many times heard from parents AFTER an expulsion hearing that they "trusted" the district to "do the right thing."  Sadly, they did not and the child was expelled.  Unfortunately, appeal rights can be limited and it is more difficult to fight an expulsion after the fact than prior to it occurring.  This is not surprising as a parent must plead their child's case in front of a panel of individuals paid by the district as employees (who are usually disciplinarians).   I would not bet my money that they would naturally have mercy on a student (they don't!).

Parents need leverage as the deck is stacked against them.  Usually, the only leverage in expulsion matters is an attorney.

I recently received the following from a happy client who could not get anywhere in an expulsion matter before the expulsion panel, and even the school board, until I became involved:

“My son was expelled from the Elk Grove Unified School District for one semester. Elk Grove High recommended two semesters expulsion. I recommended dismissal based on lack of evidence and parent notification violations. I lost the case. The Expulsion Panel recommended one semester expulsion. I quickly appealed the case to the Elk Grove Board of Education. I was also allowed to appeal the two home suspensions to the school principal. During this time I hired Education Attorney Michelle Ball for legal advice. What I liked about Michelle is that I could pay for half hour and one hour sessions, which made it affordable. I would have my questions ready and she would provide legal answers and information on the education codes. She was a wealth of knowledge.
I lost my case with the Elk Grove Board of Education and the school principal upheld the two home suspensions. I then appealed the two home suspensions to the second level, which was the Student Services and Health Department. Knowing that the District would keep playing games with me, I hired Michelle to handle the second level appeal for the expulsion, which was the Sacramento Board of Education. Michelle wrote a letter to the District’s attorney (I call it the “power letter!”) informing them that I had retained counsel for the second level appeal. Shortly after the letter was sent the District dropped the expulsion. I did the research and had substantial evidence to prove that there were parent notification violations and lack of evidence to convict my son of a 48900 (c) violation, but it wasn’t until I hired Education Attorney Michelle Ball to handle my case, that my voice was heard.” - RC

[This communication may be considered a communication/solicitation for services]

Best of luck,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page []. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

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