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:
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.
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814