Expulsion is exclusion from school for the remainder of the school year or up to 90 school days, whichever is longer. Long-term suspension is exclusion from school for more than 10 school days. Expulsions and long-term suspensions are almost always served out of school.
Generally speaking, schools only expel students for very serious violations of the student code of conduct. Students who bring a weapon, such as gun or knife, to school or school activities, or who make bomb threats against the school, must be expelled for one calendar year, if approved by the school board after a formal hearing.
Due process for expulsion and long-term suspension
Before expulsion or long-term suspension, a student and his or her parents or guardians have the right to a formal hearing before the local school board. You can choose whether to have the formal hearing. Regardless of whether you request a formal hearing, an expulsion always needs to be approved by the local school board.
At the formal hearing, you must have the opportunity to present evidence in your favor. You must also have the chance to ask questions of the witnesses against them. Questioning the witnesses against you is called “cross examination.”
To get ready for the formal hearing, follow these steps:
- Ask to see your student’s complete school record. You have a legal right to a copy of the student’s complete school file.
- Try to talk to as many of the witnesses as you can before the hearing to find out what they are going to say.
- Make a list of people who can be witnesses to help your side.
- Plan your strategy for the hearing to prevent and/or minimize the length of your student will be excluded from school. Talk to the school about a shorter suspension instead of expulsion, community service, or other ways to make amends for a rule violation.
- Ask for help if you need it! Friends, family and advocates can help you prepare. Contact us at Vermont Legal Aid with questions or if you are interested in legal representation.
Other rights before expulsion or long-term suspension include:
- getting written notice of the charges against the student; the date, time and place of the formal hearing; the possible punishment the student may receive; and a statement of the student’s right to be represented by a lawyer at the hearing
- getting a copy of all school records related to the student, and
- receiving a decision in writing from the school.
Schools should not exclude a student from class or activities until these rights have been offered and actions completed. The only exception to this rule is if the student is an immediate threat to themselves, others, school property, or the school environment. A hearing should be held as soon as possible after the immediate exclusion.
Consequences of expulsion and long-term suspension
Exclusion from school has serious consequences. Students who are suspended or expelled are likely to fall behind in their studies at the very least. Suspension and expulsion from school has also been linked to more serious consequences, including increased likelihood of dropping out of school and coming into contact with law enforcement.
You should know that Vermont law encourages, but does not require schools to offer educational services to students who have been suspended or expelled. Parents, guardians and students should still always ask schools to provide educational services during the period of exclusion. Schools may be required to offer educational services in some cases where the student being excluded has a disability. For more information, see the Students with Disabilities section below.
A student who is expelled can seek to enroll in another school. But schools in the same or other districts may refuse enrollment of a student who has been expelled elsewhere.
In addition, schools can report criminal conduct to the police and can press charges if students break the law.
What can I do?
If a student is under threat of long-term suspension or expulsion, you should:
- ask for a formal hearing from school officials in writing
- demand continued inclusion of the student until the hearing is complete
- contact a lawyer or advocate to be present at the informal or formal hearing.
Contact us at Vermont Legal Aid as soon as you think your child might be suspended for more than 10 school days or expelled.