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When can my child be expelled from public school, and what are their rights?

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2021 | Special Education Law |

Facing an expulsion from public school is often very stressful for students and their parents. In these difficult situations, it is important to understand your child’s rights.

Grounds for expulsion

In general, Colorado state law gives broad discretion to school districts regarding expulsion. Student behavior that may result in an expulsion includes:

  • Continued willful disobedience.
  • Willful destruction of school property.
  • Behavior on or off school property that is detrimental to the welfare or safety of other pupils.
  • The use, possession, or sale of a drug or controlled substance on school grounds, in a school vehicle, or at a school activity or sanctioned event.

Students may be expelled for other types of behavior too. Please note that very young children (preschool through 2nd grade) may only be expelled in limited circumstances.

Challenging an expulsion

The school district should give the student facing an expulsion the opportunity to have a hearing. The hearing is usually conducted either by the school district’s executive officer (like the Superintendent) or their designated hearing officer. If the hearing is conducted by a designee acting as a hearing officer, then following the hearing, the officer sends their recommendations to the executive officer and the executive officer decides if the student should be expelled. In Colorado, a student cannot be expelled for longer than 1 year.

A student who is expelled has 10 days after the expulsion to appeal the executive officer’s decision to the school district’s board of education. If the school district’s board of education upholds the expulsion, that decision can be challenged in court.

Depending on the particular school district, there may be other important details regarding the expulsion process. It can be very helpful to review the school district’s policies regarding these matters, which are typically available online.

Important protections for students with disabilities

In certain situations, a student with a disability may have additional legal protections through a process known as a Manifestation Determination Review (MDR). There are many details regarding when a student with a disability is entitled to an MDR and what that process entails. In some circumstances, the MDR process may prevent the school district from expelling the student.

School expulsion matters are often complex and time-sensitive. It can be critical to have experienced help if your student is facing expulsion.