Friday, April 8, 2011

Parent and Student Rights In School Expulsion Hearings

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

A family came to my office about a month ago with a scenario which was absolutely baffling to me.  Their son had been expelled in a remote district in California for an interaction with a coach.  That was not the shocking part.  The stunner was HOW the expulsion went down. The "hearing" was not a hearing at all and the family was left to observe the whole process.  Their rights were severely trampled.  Needless to say, I went in and the expulsion was immediately reversed and expunged.  The boy is now back in school and everyone pretends the whole ordeal never happened.  What a joke.  The sad thing is, the school did not reverse itself until I officially got involved as even when the parents asserted their rights, they were ignored.  This is because districts don't listen to parents on legal matters, they only listen to lawyers.

Let me tell you just some of the violations which took place:
-  The family was not allowed into the "hearing."
-  The family was not informed of their procedural rights.
-  The family was not provided the ability to cross examine any witnesses.  In fact, there were no witnesses presented by the district.
-  The Superintendent was in the room while the Board of Education was deliberating.
-  The County Board of Education (who the family had to appeal the matter to) was composed of the exact same board members as the school board, and the county board refused to move the matter to a neighboring county board of education.  In other words, Mary Smith, Jane Doe, and Jim Black were on the school board who expelled AND were on the county school board who was to review the "school board" expulsion decision!

The list goes on and on, and I could almost not believe my ears when the parents told me this tale.  I thought I was being read a fictional story.  Sadly, this was not the case.  As such, I want to describe in brief form some of the rights in a California school expulsion hearing:

1)  The right to a hearing within 30 schooldays after the date the principal or superintendent determines a breach of the education code occurred.
2)  The right to an automatic postponement for up to 30 days no questions asked.
3)  The right to have written notice of the hearing forwarded at least 10 calendar days prior to the hearing date.
4)  The right to have that notice include, among other things:
-  the student's right to be represented by legal counsel.
-  the date and place of hearing,
-  a statement of the facts and charges on which the proposed expulsion is based,
-  notice regarding your procedural rights at hearing (e.g. right to present witnesses, cross examine, etc.),
-  a copy of the disciplinary rules of the district which relate to the matter.
5)  The right to appear at the expulsion hearing.
6)  The right to confront and question all witnesses and all evidence.
7)  The right to present evidence and witnesses, on the student's behalf.
8)  The right to have NO expulsion recommended based on hearsay (he said she said) alone.
and many more....

The above list is not exhaustive.  These rights are listed in California Education Code section 48918.

Please, if your child is up for expulsion, seek advice from an attorney and know your rights.  Had this family not met me, their illegal "hearing" would have stood and the student would still be expelled.

Hopefully this district and county board of education will now review and change their ways.  (Yes I am a dreamer...)

The lesson from this story, children, is: Never trust your school or school district to do the right thing and ALWAYS have someone on your side.

Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/
Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. 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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