School suspensions are issued for almost anything nowadays. Wearing a costume, talking back, getting a drink of water when not authorized- all items for which I have seen suspensions issued. Are there ANY prerequisites to issuing a school suspension in California? Are any alternatives to suspension authorized or mandated? Yes and no.
Per California Education Code 48900.5, suspension "shall be imposed ONLY when other means of correction fail to bring about proper conduct." This strong language requires "other means of correction" first right? Right??? Yes, BUT it will depend on the offense.
First, what does "other means of correction" mean? A good talking to, detention, Saturday School, sitting in the office, or other punishment which will teach the kid a lesson.
The words "shall be imposed only when..." seem obvious enough, but are they? Unfortunately, 48900.5 also excludes various offenses including but not limited to fighting, threats, knives, drugs, robbery, and even merely disruptive students This severely limits the requirement of alternatives to suspension.
Parents CAN still use this section to argue for alternatives to suspension, particularly with a minor offense and a kid with a limited discipline history. It also can't hurt to have an education attorney make the arguments for the parents.
Now, I am not a school administrator, but I am a student attorney, and have seen many rules and laws ignored by schools until contacted by my office. Regardless of how good a parent makes an argument, schools tend to ignore any "legal interpretation" until that interpretation comes from an attorney.
When parents are faced with suspension for a minor infraction with no big discipline history, they may want to use Education Code 48900.5 to try to obtain an alternative punishment so their kid does not have to sit home, missing out on his or her education.
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814