October 15, 2002
SCHOOL EXPULSION PROCEDURE
By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst
You asked what procedure a school district must follow to expel a high school student for carrying a weapon on school grounds.
State law governs the process and criteria for expelling students from school (CGS § 10-233d). A local school board seeking to expel a student must give him a hearing before doing so, unless the student is so disruptive or threatening that he must be removed from school before the hearing. In the latter instance, the expulsion hearing must take place as soon as possible after the student's removal. The hearing is required regardless of the reason for the expulsion or the age of the student.
A school board may expel a special education student if the student's disability is not the cause of his misconduct. The student's planning and placement team must decide that question before an expulsion hearing can be held.
Expulsion hearings may be held by either the school board members or by an impartial hearing board. Hearings must follow the requirements of the state Uniform Administrative Procedure Act (UAPA), which specifies notice, evidence, and record keeping requirements and appeal rights.
A student caught with a weapon on school grounds could fall under state requirements that mandate a one-year expulsion for carrying certain firearms and deadly weapons. Even if the weapon does not meet the definitions specified for mandatory expulsion, a school board can nevertheless expel a student who violates a publicized board policy or whose behavior seriously disrupts the educational process.
In most cases, an expelled student must be offered an alternative educational opportunity during his expulsion. The only exception is a 16- or 17-year-old student who is expelled for carrying a firearm or dangerous weapon or for selling or distributing illegal drugs on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity. A special education student who is expelled must be offered an alternative educational opportunity that meets his needs regardless of the expulsion circumstances.
Except in emergencies, all students must be given a formal hearing before being expelled from school, regardless of the reason. If there is an emergency, the hearing must take place as soon as possible after the student is expelled. An "emergency" exists when a student's continued presence poses such a threat to people or property or so disrupts the educational process that he must be expelled before a hearing occurs. Expulsion hearings must conform to the provisions of the state Uniform Administrative Procedure Act, which covers notice, rules of evidence, records and transcripts, and appeal rights.
Expulsion hearings must be held either by the local school board itself or, at the board's discretion, an impartial hearing board. A board can establish its own impartial hearing board or may cooperate with one or more other school boards in establishing one. The impartial hearing board may have one or more members, but no school board member may serve on an impartial hearing board.
At least three school board members must be present at a school board expulsion hearing and a decision to expel the student must be made by a majority vote with a minimum of three votes in favor of expulsion.
If the student was arrested, police may testify and provide information about the arrest at the expulsion hearing if their testimony is requested by the board conducting the hearing, the school principal, or the student or his parent.
Special Education Students
Before an expulsion hearing for a special education student can be held, the student's planning and placement team (PPT) must meet and determine whether his misconduct was caused by his disability. If it was, the student cannot be expelled, but the PPT must reevaluate the student's individualized education program to address both the misconduct and the safety of other students and school staff. If the disability did not cause the misconduct, the student may be expelled after a hearing as described above.
Student Expelled by Another District
A school board may adopt another district's expulsion decision if it holds its own hearing on whether the conduct for which the other district expelled the student would also lead to expulsion under its own policies. The student is not permitted to attend school in the new district while the hearing is pending.
Student Who Withdraws With an Expulsion Hearing Pending
If a student withdraws from school after receiving notice of an expulsion hearing but before there is a decision, notice of the hearing must be included on his cumulative record and the board must complete the hearing and render a decision. The student must not be excluded from a new school, unless an emergency exists, until a decision is rendered. But the new school board may suspend the student or conduct its own expulsion hearing should it choose to do so.
A student must be expelled from school if the expulsion board finds there is reason to believe he (1) possessed certain weapons on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity; (2) carried such a weapon off school grounds without a permit or used it to commit a crime; or (3) sold or distributed, or tried to sell or distribute, illegal drugs on or off school grounds. The mandatory expulsion requirement covers the following weapons:
· Firearm - any weapon that can expel a projectile by explosive; a firearm frame, receiver, muffler, or silencer; or any destructive device, which includes explosives, incendiaries, and poison gases (18 USC 921)
· Deadly Weapon - one from which a shot can be discharged, a switchblade or gravity knife, billy, blackjack, bludgeon, or metal knuckles (CGS § 53a-3(6))
· Dangerous Instrument - something that, under the circumstances in which it is used, can cause death or serious injury, including an attack dog or a vehicle (CGS § 53a-3(7))
· Martial Arts Weapon - a nunchaku, kama, kasari-fundo, octagon sai, tonfa, or Chinese star (CGS § 53a-3(21))
In addition to weapons and drug-related misconduct, a school board may expel a student whose conduct on school grounds or at a school sponsored activity (1) is dangerous to people or property, (2) seriously disrupts the educational process, or (3) violates a publicized school board policy. A board may also expel a student for misconduct outside school if it both violates a publicized board policy and seriously disrupts the educational process.
In deciding whether conduct seriously disrupts the educational process, a board can consider whether, among other things, (1) the incident happened close to a school; (2) other students from the school or a gang were involved; (3) the conduct involved violence, threats of violence, or illegal weapons; (4) injuries occurred; or (5) alcohol was used.
In cases of mandatory expulsion described above, the student must be expelled for one calendar year, but an expulsion board can modify the expulsion period on a case-by-case basis. In all cases, when deciding how long an expulsion lasts and the type of alternative educational opportunity, if any, to offer, a board may take and consider evidence about the a student's past disciplinary problems that have lead to in- or out-of-school suspensions or past expulsions.
An expelled student can apply for early readmission to school. Readmission may occur at the local school board's discretion or, if the board delegates the responsibility to him, at the discretion of the school superintendent. The board or superintendent can impose conditions on readmission. Readmission decisions cannot be appealed to court.
ALTERNATIVE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY
A local school board must offer an alternative educational opportunity to an expelled student under age 16 during his expulsion period. It must also offer an opportunity to any student between ages 16 and 18 who is expelled for the first time, unless the expulsion is for carrying a dangerous weapon or selling or distributing illegal drugs on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity. Eligible students between 16 and 18 must be offered an alternative educational opportunity only if they comply with the school board's conditions. Boards do not have to offer alternative opportunities to expelled students who have turned 18, unless they are special education students. All special education students must be offered an alternative educational opportunity consistent with their educational needs until they are 21.
In determining whether a student over age 16 is being expelled for the first time, the board must count any expulsions imposed on the student before he turned 16. The board's alternative education program for a student between 16 and 18 can include placement in an adult education program.
When a school board notifies a student between the ages of 16 and 18, or his parents, that it will hold an expulsion hearing, the notice must state that the board of education is not required to offer an alternative educational opportunity to any student found to have carried a dangerous weapon or sold or distributed illegal drugs on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity.
STUDENT'S CUMULATIVE RECORD
A school district must include a student's expulsion in his cumulative educational record. But unless the expulsion was for carrying a dangerous weapon or selling or distributing illegal drugs on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity, the expulsion must be expunged from the record if the student (1) is neither expelled nor suspended for two years after his return to school or (2) graduates.
REQUIRED NOTICE OR REFERRALS TO OTHER AGENCIES
When a student is expelled for carrying a firearm or deadly weapon, the board of education must report the fact to the local police or, if the student was expelled from a regional vocational-technical school, the
state police. When a student is expelled for selling or distributing illegal drugs, the board must refer him to an appropriate agency for rehabilitation, intervention, or job training, and must inform the agency that it has done so.