What to Do When Your Child Is Expelled From School

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Finding out that your child may be expelled from school can be very upsetting for any parent. School attendance is a huge part of a child or teen's life. You may worry that your child will never have the chance to complete a quality education and the rest of your child's life will be affected. 

While a school expulsion is an extremely serious matter, it does not permanently end your child's access to education or most future opportunities. In order to have the best outcome, you will want to begin advocating for your child early in the expulsion process and continue to provide needed support.

School Expulsion vs. Suspension

If you have received a phone call from your child's school about your child's behavior, you will want to be clear if your child is facing expulsion or a suspension. The length and severity of the two disciplinary actions require different steps to be taken by parents for the best outcome. 

School suspensions are often a short-term discipline action where a child may not sit in the regular classroom for ten days or less. Suspension may be in school, where the child goes to a designated room and is supervised. During out of school suspension a child may not be physically present at the school.

A child is expelled from school when they are no longer allowed to attend a school for a much longer period of time, often a year or more.

Many people believe that expulsion means that a child will no longer be allowed to attend a school ever, but for most public schools, this isn't true. Generally, after a very long period of time, a child may be able to re-enroll. They may have special conditions to meet to do so. An expulsion will not be the end of your child's education.

When Can Kids Be Expelled?

Since expulsion is the most serious disciplinary action that a school can take, it is seen as a last resort punishment by the school.

In public schools, it is reserved for the most serious behaviors. Public schools have a responsibility to provide an education to the children living within their boundaries. Grounds for expulsion are often guided by federal and state laws.

Under the federal Gun-Free Schools Act, any student who brings a gun to school must be expelled for a minimum of one full year. Many states have laws requiring expulsion for bringing other weapons, such as knives, to school. Bringing, selling, or using drugs at school may also lead to expulsion, depending on the state.

Private schools are not required to educate all children living within a particular area. They may set their own rules about who they expel. These guidelines should be listed in a student handbook. While private schools will also save expulsion for only very serious behaviors, private schools may include behaviors that they believe do not comply at all with the purpose of the private school.

Many schools, both public and private, will also expel students for repeated dangerous behaviors, like bullying or fighting. They may have rules that a certain number of school suspensions will automatically lead to expulsion, regardless of the type of behaviors that are repeated.

Before Your Child is Expelled

There are a number of things you can do between the time you learn your child is facing expulsion and a decision has been completed expelling your child from school.

Consider Contacting an Attorney

Many of the behaviors that lead to getting expelled from school can also lead to criminal charges. If your child may be facing criminal charges, contacting an attorney early on will give the attorney a chance to provide guidance throughout the process. Additionally, the expulsion process and the criminal process may each affect one another.

If you choose to contact an attorney, be clear that there is a possible school expulsion along with possible criminal charges.

Get Both Sides of the Story

The first contact you receive from the school will probably be a phone call asking you to come to the school to hear why they are considering expelling your child. You will want to attend this meeting and listen carefully to what the school staff says. Stay calm during this meeting and focus on listening and asking questions to make sure you understand the school's side of the story. 

The school staff will explain what they believe your child did, and tell you what evidence they have to support this. They may explain they have video, a statement from a teacher or other students who witnessed the behavior, or that your child was directly caught by staff. Keep your questions focused on what they are saying your child did, how they know this, and how it meets the criteria for expulsion.

You will then want to have a calm discussion with your child asking them their side of the story. You may want to tell your child upfront that it is important that they are honest with you right now so you can help them through this situation. 

Seek Emotional or Behavioral Support

The incident and behavior that is leading to an expulsion could be the notice you need to address a problem your child is experiencing. If your child was caught with drugs at school, you may want to get a substance abuse evaluation. If your child is experiencing problems with fighting, they may be having emotional issues that require intervention.

Learn Your State Discipline Laws

As discussed above, expulsion rules are mostly determined by individual states. You can learn more about your child's rights and when a school can expel a student by finding out what your state guidelines are. You can find your state guidelines at this website provided by the U.S. Dept. of Education.

Get a Student Handbook

In addition to understanding your state's discipline laws, the individual school's discipline rules and procedures should be listed in the school's student handbook. Many schools provide copies of the handbook to students at the beginning of the school year. They may also be available on the school website. You can also ask the school to provide you a copy.

Retain Copies of Related Documentation

Schools are required to provide written notices of suspensions and expulsions. Keep copies of any paperwork that the school provides you connected with the incident. You can also ask for any documents related to your child's possible expulsion.

If your child is facing expulsion because of repeated suspension, be sure you have all notices and documents about the past suspension. If you were not provided with these notices, or have misplaced them ask the school for new copies.

If Your Child Has a Disability, Understand Their Rights

Students with disabilities have special rights when facing expulsion under federal law. Schools must follow certain requirements, such as checking to see if the student's disability was a cause or factor in the behavior. If your child has a disability and is expelled, your child must still have access to free and appropriate education.

Prepare for the Hearing Process

Federal laws state that your child has a right to a fair hearing before being expelled. This process varies between states and school districts. What this process should include is a chance for the school's and your child's side of the story to be heard. Your child's story can be presented by you or someone you have chosen such as an educational advocate or attorney.

You will want to know how to present evidence that shows whether or not your child broke a school rule and whether or not they should be expelled under school guidelines. You may be able to bring in witnesses, documents you received from the school, or other evidence. 

Think Carefully About Appealing

The hearing will lead to a decision over whether or not your child is expelled from school. It is understandable that you may be disappointed, angry or saddened if your child is expelled. The expulsion process can be difficult for everyone involved, including a loving parent who has strongly advocated for their child.

You may have hoped that the hearing would be the end of this process, and instead, you no have the expulsion itself to handle. An appeal may seem like a fast way to turn the tide back to your favor.

Generally, you should only appeal if you believe that the evidence at the hearing did not support the decision to expel your child.

If you do decide to appeal, you should be able to find guidelines detailing how to do so in the student handbook or in other materials you have been provided by the school district.

After Your Child Is Expelled

You have already gone through a stressful process to find out if your child was actually going to be expelled. You may be experiencing a variety of emotions from relief that the hearing process is over, or disappointment in the outcome. It's important that you take care of yourself.

Your child still needs you while adjusting to the expulsion itself. The expulsion time period may also bring some new challenges. Caring for yourself will help you to help your child through this time.

Explore Learning Options 

As said before, being expelled does not mean an end to your child's education. Your child's school district may have a public online school that will be available to your child. There may also be a special school for children and teens who have been expelled. You may be able to apply for your child to enroll in another public school if open enrollment options exist in your area.

Rarely, a school will not have any educational options available for one full year for an expelled student. In this situation, you may want to explore homeschooling or private schools. Whichever option you choose, be sure that this new option fits your child's unique needs.

Understand All Terms of Expulsion

You will want to understand if and when your child can return to school. If they are expelled during the school year before they were planned to move up a school, such as the last year of middle school before high school, find out if your child will be able to attend the next level school.

You will want to know if they are banned from school grounds, all school district grounds, for how long, and under what conditions. If your child wishes to attend a special school event of a sibling or close friend and they have banned from school grounds, find out if there is a way to request a special pass for the event.

Learn the Terms for Returning to School

Your child may have to meet certain requirements to return to school. These steps may be written out in a customized school re-entry plan. Often the re-entry plan is designed to help the student take steps to avoid repeating the behavior that led to the expulsion. If your child hopes to return to the school system they were expelled from, the re-entry plan should detail exactly what to do to return.

Still, during that time it is wise to try to continue academic learning to avoid falling behind in school. If the re-entry plan does not include continued learning, you may still want your child to keep learning through the learning options listed above.

A Word From Verywell

While having a child get expelled from school is extremely stressful, it is a temporary event that your child can get through. With good support, the time of the expulsion can provide your child with time to resolve issues that led to the expulsion.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Education. Subpart 3 — Gun Possession.

  2. U.S. Department of Education. School Climate and Discipline.

  3. Goss et al. v. Lopez et al., 419 U.S. 565 (1975)

By Lisa Linnell-Olsen
Lisa Linnell-Olsen has worked as a support staff educator, and is well-versed in issues of education policy and parenting issues.