Monday, August 27, 2012

School Suspension Or Expulsion For Bullying Under California Education Code 48900(r)

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Bullying has been a hot topic recently, due to its prevalence in schools: on the bus, in the classrooms, in the bathrooms, and generally wherever students interact.  Do you remember the school bully?  Or, maybe you have seen movie depictions such as the red haired youth with his raccoon fur hat who terrorizes the main character Ralphie in A Christmas Story.  Did you know that students can be suspended or expelled from school for bullying?

Per the California Education Code, section 48900(r), students who bully can be kicked out of school. Such discipline is limited to pupils in the fourth grade or above and the legal definition of bullying is as follows (summarized below):

"Severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act ...that has or could be "reasonably predicted" to have the following impact on a "reasonable pupil:" 

1)  Places the student in fear of harm (for themselves or their property).
2)  Has a "substantially detrimental effect" to the student's physical or mental health.
3)  Causes substantial interference with the student's academic performance.
4)  Causes substantial interference with the student participating in or benefiting from "the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school."

A "reasonable pupil" is defined as: "a pupil, including, but not limited to, an exceptional needs pupil, who exercises average care, skill , and judgment in conduct for a person of his or her age, or for a person of his or her age with his or her exceptional needs."

What this means in English and how this will play out is yet to be seen.  The legislature did attempt to limit the application of this statute in the fact that they require "substantial" interference in three out of four of the categories.  However, they did not provide a definition as far as what amounts to "substantial interference," nor explain what a "substantially detrimental effect" might be.  And I don't know about you, but some of the things kids do could put almost anyone "in fear of harm."

Most likely the schools will require a low level of proof.  The vague language here is doubly concerning when one considers that in the majority of expulsions, parents and students appear before a panel of hand-picked District employees who will hear and decide on the matter and the punishment.

Parents really need to ensure that they involve proper legal help if their children are up for expulsion for bullying as the right to attend school is an important right to fight for.

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
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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.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Michelle,
    My nephew was hit on the head today by another student. He was found on the floor by the school nurse who called 911 and my sister. This guy has been known for being a bully, and my nephew has been his victim in the past, but today he has definitely crossed the line. My sister is trying to press charges but the school, and the police, are just fooling around. I Googled a few lawyers and sent the numbers to my sister, then I found your blog.
    This has to stop. It is not fair that he will be back at school, back to playing football and wrestling, back to bullying. It has to stop, even against our lazy police department, or our condescending school people.
    Do you have any advice? Do you think you can help us?


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