Blog by California student attorney Michelle Ball about education law and student rights in public and private school settings, from preschool through college. As a student lawyer, Michelle helps with school expulsion, special education, suspension, discipline, bullying, 504, sports, discrimination, student records, injury, and many other California school issues.
How To Negotiate A Better School Expulsion Outcome
Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
Expulsions from school unfortunately occur more often than one might think. Parents who believe life is going along smoothly with their children, may find themselves on the end of a phone call with a Vice Principal telling them to come pick up their child as they are up for suspension. Upon arrival and discussing the situation, they may also be told their child is up for expulsion and the matter is going to hearing.
Is there any hope for resolution before the dreaded expulsion hearing? There may be.
Usually, parents with a child up for expulsion wait for the expulsion hearing to take place to plead their case, believing the expulsion hearing panel and/or hearing officer will believe them and have mercy. Unfortunately, the expulsion panel usually takes a limited view of their punishment options and may feel they have no choice but to expel a student irregardless of a parent's plea and even on the slimmest of evidence.
Most parents do not know there are other options than proceeding to an expulsion hearing, such as negotiating the discipline outside the hearing process via "stipulated agreement," (aka "stipulated expulsion"- basically a written expulsion agreement).
These stipulations may be offered by a district, but usually, if a stipulation is offered with no parent request, they are poor offers for the child. If one is offered and the parent thinks it is too harsh, and/or if no offer is forthcoming, a parent can step-up and try to better the situation.
3) Writing up a letter explaining who their child is and a factual summary (written honestly, but favorably for the child), and
4) Including in the letter a request for resolution pre-hearing with a specific suggestion of punishment which should be tried instead.
Such a letter could move the matter toward a resolution which may be more tailored to what the family wants.
Some possible alternatives to "full" expulsion could be:
a) A behavior contract with return to school, or
b) An involuntary transfer to another regular (aka comprehensive) school in the district, or
c) A suspended (probationary) expulsion with minimal terms, or
d) Some other creative alternative (the sky is the limit).
Parents can route their request to the person in charge of the expulsion process as a first step and can try to address the Superintendent as well (not always possible).
The bottom line is as our forefathers said, "It can't hurt to ask," which is as true as ever in expulsion matters. And, even if a parent fails in their quest, they can still go to their expulsion hearing.
As a lawyer, I know also that sometimes districts will not listen to parents without an attorney. So, some parents may still want to bring in legal help from the beginning, or if self-advocacy fails. But, even without legal help, parents can try on their own to better their child's situation. You never know what positive results might occur.
Education Law Attorney
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