Monday, November 28, 2011

Suspension or Expulsion For Profanity At School? It's Supposed To Be Habitual

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

California parents can often be shocked when they receive a call stating their child is being sent home for five days for saying a bad word at school.  I have seen a lot of discipline matters centered around language, including swear words. However, unless the profanity is habitual, a suspension or expulsion may not be legal.

Per California Education Code section 48900(i) a student may be suspended or expelled for engaging in "habitual profanity."  Note the code does not say a child may be suspended for "profanity," but rather HABITUAL profanity.  This wording is important, and not always understood by the school imposing the discipline.

Habitual is defined in "" as follows (adjective form):

1.  done or experienced regularly or repeatedly
2.  by habit
3.  customary, usual

In other words, habitual profanity must involve swearing as a regular activity of the student.  One slip up of saying the "F" word or the "S" word is NOT grounds for suspension or expulsion per the California Education Code.  However, easy as it seems to read the statute, I have seen discipline imposed for simply saying a bad word on a single occasion.  Technically, this is not a legal basis for suspension.

As it is often harder to remove a record, or reverse a suspension (suspension appeal), than to prevent a suspension in the first place, all parents should discuss language at school with their children.  Profane speech may result in a student having a permanent black mark which may haunt them beyond high school. Suspensions (and expulsions) must be revealed when inquired about by colleges, or even when seeking to enter various professions (even becoming an attorney).

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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