When Do Schools Legally Have the Right to Suspend or Expel Students?

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When Do Schools Legally Have the Right to Suspend or Expel Students?

Expelling a student shouldn’t be the first thing that schools and their boards shoot for when disciplining their students. Some misconduct in school does bring about the conversation around possible expulsion, but it should still be considered a last resort. However, some schools have stepped over the line in their discipline procedures, opening the door to liabilities.

While there are some actions that do indeed count toward immediate expulsion and discipline in general, there are some instances where schools have overstepped the boundaries. Some students have even been expelled for political views, which has only brought controversy to the schools and districts who approved decisions to do so.

While details vary state to state, it’s still a good rule of thumb for schools to know what does constitute grounds for expelling a student. Here are some thoughts.

Suspension v. Expulsion

School disciplinary rules usually pair out-of-school suspension and expulsion together when it comes to the different choices of disciplining students. And while some actions by students can rise to the level of those two choices, there’s still a difference between being suspended and being kicked out of school permanently.

Students who are suspended are held back from going back to class for a specific period of time, but will eventually head back to class. It could be a couple of days or a couple of weeks, depending on the state or district. When students are expelled, they are completely severed from the school in which they were attending for at least a semester or even a full year. This action stays on a student’s record and can make it difficult for them to find a new school.

Getting Expelled

If a school decides to move forward with an expulsion, they should make sure what occurred rises to the level of something of this seriousness, as far as long-term effects for everyone involved. If it’s something that does not meet certain requirements, it can possibly bring about liabilities for the school, its district, and the board, leading to legal cases that should be avoided at all costs. In this case, an educators insurance plan is suggested to protect those involved who had a hand in choosing this route. While it may not win a case for those covered, it can provide financial help during litigation.

Usually, expulsion is up to the states to decide what types of misconduct can get students completely kicked out of schools, but there are a few federal laws set for school discipline. Take the Gun-Free Schools Act, for example, which says that any student found with a gun at a public school must be expelled for at least a full school year, if not longer. Many states have followed this mandate by creating their own zero-tolerance policies that call on mandatory suspensions or expulsions for other offenses like drugs and violence.

Some other examples of what can bring about an expulsion include hurting or threatening students or teachers, giving out over-the-counter medicine, making terrorist threats, making sexual advances towards a teacher, staff member, or administrator, and cyberbullying.

Communicating to Students and Parents

At the beginning of every school year, schools should make sure to cover their reputation and risks by communicating what their expectations are for students in their classrooms. Giving out a handbook that outlines conduct rules and the procedures for school discipline. These handouts should be available in print and online, and also highlight what can get students expelled throughout the state, not just in one school.

During and After an Expulsion

When students have been expelled from a school, that school may set them up with alternative learning opportunities that address issues related to kids with behavior problems. Some states make something like this a requirement. After students have been expelled, they can apply to private schools, online programs, or schools in other districts to continue their education, however, it may be difficult to find acceptance as having an expulsion on a student’s record can set them back reputationally.

About PGUI

Professional Governmental Underwriters, Inc., is a full-service risk management company dedicated to assisting public, educational and non-profit entities in the management of their professional liability exposures including educators liability insurance. We are dedicated to providing state-of-the-art professional underwriting management and loss control advisory services on behalf of our designated carriers. For more information, call us toll-free at (800) 586-6502.