California Education Code 48900 EC permits public school students to be suspended or recommended for expulsion if they commit a violent crime, possess drugs or weapons, steal, bully, haze, behave obscenely, threaten to cause physical harm, or damage school property. These acts must occur on school property or be otherwise related to school activities for the pupil to be suspended or expelled.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
EC 48900. A pupil shall not be suspended from school or recommended for expulsion, unless the superintendent of the school district or the principal of the school in which the pupil is enrolled determines that the pupil has committed an act as defined pursuant to any of subdivisions (a) to (r), inclusive:
(a)(1) Caused, attempted to cause, or threatened to cause physical injury to another person.
(2) Willfully used force or violence upon the person of another, except in self-defense.
(b) Possessed, sold, or otherwise furnished a firearm, knife, explosive, or other dangerous object, unless, in the case of possession of an object of this type, the pupil had obtained written permission to possess the item from a certificated school employee, which is concurred in by the principal or the designee of the principal.
(c) Unlawfully possessed, used, sold, or otherwise furnished, or been under the influence of, a controlled substance listed in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 11053) of Division 10 of the Health and Safety Code, an alcoholic beverage, or an intoxicant of any kind.
(d) Unlawfully offered, arranged, or negotiated to sell a controlled substance listed in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 11053) of Division 10 of the Health and Safety Code, an alcoholic beverage, or an intoxicant of any kind, and either sold, delivered, or otherwise furnished to a person another liquid, substance, or material and represented the liquid, substance, or material as a controlled substance, alcoholic beverage, or intoxicant.
(e) Committed or attempted to commit robbery or extortion.
(f) Caused or attempted to cause damage to school property or private property.
(g) Stole or attempted to steal school property or private property.
(h) Possessed or used tobacco, or products containing tobacco or nicotine products, including, but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, miniature cigars, clove cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snuff, chew packets, and betel. However, this section does not prohibit the use or possession by a pupil of the pupil’s own prescription products.
(i) Committed an obscene act or engaged in habitual profanity or vulgarity.
(j) Unlawfully possessed or unlawfully offered, arranged, or negotiated to sell drug paraphernalia, as defined in Section 11014.5 of the Health and Safety Code.
(k)(1) Disrupted school activities or otherwise willfully defied the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.
(2) Except as provided in Section 48910, a pupil enrolled in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 3, inclusive, shall not be suspended for any of the acts enumerated in paragraph (1), and those acts shall not constitute grounds for a pupil enrolled in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, to be recommended for expulsion. This paragraph is inoperative on July 1, 2020.
(3) Except as provided in Section 48910, commencing July 1, 2020, a pupil enrolled in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 5, inclusive, shall not be suspended for any of the acts specified in paragraph (1), and those acts shall not constitute grounds for a pupil enrolled in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 12, inclusive, to be recommended for expulsion.
(4) Except as provided in Section 48910, commencing July 1, 2020, a pupil enrolled in any of grades 6 to 8, inclusive, shall not be suspended for any of the acts specified in paragraph (1). This paragraph is inoperative on July 1, 2025.
(l) Knowingly received stolen school property or private property.
(m) Possessed an imitation firearm. As used in this section, “imitation firearm” means a replica of a firearm that is so substantially similar in physical properties to an existing firearm as to lead a reasonable person to conclude that the replica is a firearm.
(n) Committed or attempted to commit a sexual assault as defined in Section 261, 266c, 286, 287, 288, or 289 of, or former Section 288a of, the Penal Code or committed a sexual battery as defined in Section 243.4 of the Penal Code.
(o) Harassed, threatened, or intimidated a pupil who is a complaining witness or a witness in a school disciplinary proceeding for purposes of either preventing that pupil from being a witness or retaliating against that pupil for being a witness, or both.
(p) Unlawfully offered, arranged to sell, negotiated to sell, or sold the prescription drug Soma.
(q) Engaged in, or attempted to engage in, hazing. For purposes of this subdivision, “hazing” means a method of initiation or preinitiation into a pupil organization or body, whether or not the organization or body is officially recognized by an educational institution, that is likely to cause serious bodily injury or personal degradation or disgrace resulting in physical or mental harm to a former, current, or prospective pupil. For purposes of this subdivision, “hazing” does not include athletic events or school-sanctioned events.
(r) Engaged in an act of bullying. For purposes of this subdivision, the following terms have the following meanings:
(1) “Bullying” means any severe or pervasive physical or verbal act or conduct, including communications made in writing or by means of an electronic act, and including one or more acts committed by a pupil or group of pupils as defined in Section 48900.2, 48900.3, or 48900.4, directed toward one or more pupils that has or can be reasonably predicted to have the effect of one or more of the following:
(A) Placing a reasonable pupil or pupils in fear of harm to that pupil’s or those pupils’ person or property.
(B) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience a substantially detrimental effect on the pupil’s physical or mental health.
(C) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with the pupil’s academic performance.
(D) Causing a reasonable pupil to experience substantial interference with the pupil’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or privileges provided by a school.
(2)(A) “Electronic act” means the creation or transmission originated on or off the schoolsite, by means of an electronic device, including, but not limited to, a telephone, wireless telephone, or other wireless communication device, computer, or pager, of a communication, including, but not limited to, any of the following:
(i) A message, text, sound, video, or image.
(ii) A post on a social network internet website, including, but not limited to:
(I) Posting to or creating a burn page. “Burn page” means an internet website created for the purpose of having one or more of the effects listed in paragraph (1).
(II) Creating a credible impersonation of another actual pupil for the purpose of having one or more of the effects listed in paragraph (1). “Credible impersonation” means to knowingly and without consent impersonate a pupil for the purpose of bullying the pupil and such that another pupil would reasonably believe, or has reasonably believed, that the pupil was or is the pupil who was impersonated.
(III) Creating a false profile for the purpose of having one or more of the effects listed in paragraph (1). “False profile” means a profile of a fictitious pupil or a profile using the likeness or attributes of an actual pupil other than the pupil who created the false profile.
(iii)(I) An act of cyber sexual bullying.
(II) For purposes of this clause, “cyber sexual bullying” means the dissemination of, or the solicitation or incitement to disseminate, a photograph or other visual recording by a pupil to another pupil or to school personnel by means of an electronic act that has or can be reasonably predicted to have one or more of the effects described in subparagraphs (A) to (D), inclusive, of paragraph (1). A photograph or other visual recording, as described in this subclause, shall include the depiction of a nude, semi-nude, or sexually explicit photograph or other visual recording of a minor where the minor is identifiable from the photograph, visual recording, or other electronic act.
(III) For purposes of this clause, “cyber sexual bullying” does not include a depiction, portrayal, or image that has any serious literary, artistic, educational, political, or scientific value or that involves athletic events or school-sanctioned activities.
(B) Notwithstanding paragraph (1) and subparagraph (A), an electronic act shall not constitute pervasive conduct solely on the basis that it has been transmitted on the internet or is currently posted on the internet.
(3) “Reasonable pupil” means a pupil, including, but not limited to, a pupil with exceptional needs, who exercises average care, skill, and judgment in conduct for a person of that age, or for a person of that age with the pupil’s exceptional needs.
(s) A pupil shall not be suspended or expelled for any of the acts enumerated in this section unless the act is related to a school activity or school attendance occurring within a school under the jurisdiction of the superintendent of the school district or principal or occurring within any other school district. A pupil may be suspended or expelled for acts that are enumerated in this section and related to a school activity or school attendance that occur at any time, including, but not limited to, any of the following:
(1) While on school grounds.
(2) While going to or coming from school.
(3) During the lunch period whether on or off the campus.
(4) During, or while going to or coming from, a school-sponsored activity.
(t) A pupil who aids or abets, as defined in Section 31 of the Penal Code, the infliction or attempted infliction of physical injury to another person may be subject to suspension, but not expulsion, pursuant to this section, except that a pupil who has been adjudged by a juvenile court to have committed, as an aider and abettor, a crime of physical violence in which the victim suffered great bodily injury or serious bodily injury shall be subject to discipline pursuant to subdivision (a).
(u) As used in this section, “school property” includes, but is not limited to, electronic files and databases.
(v) For a pupil subject to discipline under this section, a superintendent of the school district or principal is encouraged to provide alternatives to suspension or expulsion, using a research-based framework with strategies that improve behavioral and academic outcomes, that are age appropriate and designed to address and correct the pupil’s specific misbehavior as specified in Section 48900.5.
(w)(1) It is the intent of the Legislature that alternatives to suspension or expulsion be imposed against a pupil who is truant, tardy, or otherwise absent from school activities.
(2) It is further the intent of the Legislature that the Multi-Tiered System of Supports, which includes restorative justice practices, trauma-informed practices, social and emotional learning, and schoolwide positive behavior interventions and support, may be used to help pupils gain critical social and emotional skills, receive support to help transform trauma-related responses, understand the impact of their actions, and develop meaningful methods for repairing harm to the school community.
California Ed Code 48900 EC lists all the reasons why public school pupils can get suspended or recommended for expulsion. But these “prohibited acts” must have occurred on school property, at a school activity, during lunch, or on the way to or from school. These prohibited acts include:
- Causing – or threatening to cause – physical injury to another
- Willfully using force or violence or sexual assault on another
- Having or furnishing a gun, knife, explosive, imitation firearm, or other dangerous object
- Having or furnishing a narcotic or alcohol
- Arranging a sale of a narcotic, the prescription drug Soma, alcohol, or drug paraphernalia
- Robbing, extorting, or stealing stolen school- or private property
- Damaging or stealing school property or private property
- Possessing or using tobacco or nicotine products
- Acting in an obscene way
- Harassing a witness in a school disciplinary proceeding, hazing, or bullying1
Note that pupils who aid or abet the infliction of physical injury can be suspended for their actions but not expelled. But if the student is adjudged delinquent for aiding or abetting physical violence resulting in serious bodily injury, then the student could be expelled.2
However, principals and superintendents are encouraged to discipline students before resorting to suspension or expulsion. Examples may include after-school detention, community service, counseling, or other age-appropriate character-building programs. And suspension or expulsion should be last resorts for students who are truant or tardy.3
See our related articles on When Can Kids Be Suspended Or Expelled For Making Threats?, Penal Code 626.9 PC – California’s “Gun-Free School Zone Act”, Penal Code 626.10 PC – Weapons on California School Grounds.
Is your child facing discipline from the school district? Our California juvenile defense attorneys help fight unfair suspensions and expulsions. Call us today for a free consultation.
- California Education Code 48900 EC – Grounds for suspension or expulsion. See also Scott B. v. Board of Trustees of Orange County High School of the Arts (Cal. App. 4th Dist., 2013), 217 Cal. App. 4th 117, 158 Cal. Rptr. 3d 173.
- Same. See also T.H. v. San Diego Unified School Dist. (Cal. App. 4th Dist. Oct. 4, 2004), 122 Cal. App. 4th 1267, 19 Cal. Rptr. 3d 532.