What is Expulsion from School? - Definition & Reasons

Instructor: Stephanie Matalone

Stephanie taught high school science and math and has a Master's Degree in Secondary Education.

In this lesson, we will go over the definition of a school expulsion, comparing it to other consequences students might face at school for misbehavior, such as in-school or out-of-school suspension. We will discuss reasons why a school might expel a student, what types of behavior can lead to an expulsion and what the process is like.

Rules at School

Regardless of what type of school a child goes to, there are certain rules that they have to follow. School rules are typically outlined in a school handbook that children and parents have to sign at the beginning of the year. This handbook will typically cover things such as dress code, attendance policies, drop-off/ pick-up procedures, and more. More seriously, rules about drugs and violence will often be laid out in the handbook.

On top of entire school rules, students must also follow rules set by their teachers in individual classrooms. Some teachers will have their rules written out and displayed on their walls or boards, while others might present them in a syllabus that students will sign at the beginning of the semester. Even further, there are general 'unspoken' rules about the way students should conduct themselves that a teacher might not spell out for a student. This can include something like not interrupting the teacher while he or she is speaking to the class.

These class rules may vary slightly from room to room, but generally teachers will have procedures for things like using the restroom and cell phone usage. When students break these rules, teachers will respond in different ways; some will have pre-set consequences based on the action, while others will respond in the moment.

Disciplinary Actions

Generally speaking, schools function on the principle that students must be disciplined when they do not follow the rules. Otherwise they will take advantage of teachers and administrators and the rule-breaking will continue and spread to other students.

Typically, discipline starts in the the classroom when students do not follow a teacher's rules. If this is not working, or the misbehavior is too 'severe' (i.e., drugs and violence), then the student is referred to the office where a school administrator will decide how to discipline the student.

This is where some of the more long-term consequences come into play. Administrators have the power to suspend and expel students for more serious or repeat infractions. Suspensions can either be in-school or out-of-school and usually last from 1-10 days. Expulsions are always out of school and are longer than 10 days, sometimes permanent. Both mean that the student cannot attend classes with their classmates, and out-of-school suspensions and expulsions mean the student is not allowed on campus at all. In-school suspensions simply mean the student is at school but in a designated area like the detention room during the school day.

How long an expulsion lasts and whether or not it is permanent depends on the school and district policies and the action of the student which caused the expulsion. Most states require the school board to look at and approve expulsions, while schools usually can suspend students on their own. Generally, an expulsion hearing will take place where the school board will hear evidence from witnesses and the student before making a decision on whether or not to expel him or her.

Expulsions are pretty serious business. Law enforcement may get involved if students turn up on campus when they are not supposed to. Students who get expelled may have to attend an alternative school where they are offered more counseling or therapy services.

Why Are Students Expelled?

Now that we know what expelling a student means, let's talk about why it is used. It seems pretty severe but sometimes administrators do not even have a choice. For example, some districts have a policy that if a student brings a weapon to school, they are permanently expelled from that school. This means that if a weapon is found on a student, teachers and administrators MUST follow that protocol and have no personal say on the matter. This is called a 'zero tolerance' policy and typically covers things such as drugs, weapons, and violence.

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