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When can kids be suspended or expelled for making threats?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Jun 27, 2019 | 0 Comments

bigger teen talking down on smaller teen

A student can be suspended or expelled for threatening to physically harm another person during school or a school activity. A student can also be suspended or expelled if he or she makes a terroristic threat against a school official or school property, even after school hours.

Students are engaged in school or school activities whenever they are:

  • on school grounds,
  • going to or coming from school,
  • during lunch period, whether on or off the campus,
  • traveling to, during, and returning from, a school-sponsored activity.

Terroristic threats against a school or school officials consist of:

  • a threat to commit a crime which will result in death, great bodily injury, or property damage greater than $1,000,
  • with the specific intent that the statement be taken as a threat,
  • even if the student had no intent of carrying out the threat.

If a student is accused of threatening physical harm or making terroristic threats, he or she may claim that:

  • the statements were made as a joke,
  • the statements were made in self-defense,
  • it wasn't me, mistaken identity,
  • the statements were not made during school or related to a school activity.

Please note that a pupil could be suspended if they do almost anything considered a crime under the California Penal Code during school or during school activities.

Can a student be suspended or expelled in California for threatening someone?

Yes. A student can be suspended or expelled from school, even for a first offense, if he or she:

  • threatens to physically harm another person during school or during school activities,
  • makes terroristic threats against school officials or school property during or even after school hours.

For threats of physical harm that take place during school or school activities, they must occur:

  • while on school grounds,
  • while going to or coming from school,
  • during the lunch period whether on or off the campus,
  • during, or while going to or coming from, a school-sponsored activity.

Terroristic threats against school property or school officials are described in California Education Code 48900.7, and consist of:

  • an oral or written statement,
  • threatening to commit a crime which will result in death, great bodily injury, or property damage greater than $1,000,
  • with the specific intent that the statement be taken as a threat,
  • even if the student had no intent of carrying out the threat.

Depending on the age and acts of the student, a principal may decide that there are alternatives to suspension. These include:

  • a conference between school personnel, the pupil's parents or guardian, and the pupil,
  • referral to the school counselor, psychologist, or others for case management and counseling,
  • referral for a comprehensive psychosocial or psychoeducational assessment,
  • enrollment in an anger management or prosocial behavior program,
  • participation in a restorative justice program,
  • after-school programs that address specific behavioral issues or expose pupils to positive activities and behaviors.

A student can be suspended for up to five consecutive schooldays. The total number of schooldays for which a pupil may be suspended in any school year is 20.

Will parents be notified if their kid is suspended or expelled from school?

Before any suspension an informal conference will be held between the principal (or other school personnel) and the student. A school employee must make a reasonable effort to contact the pupil's parent or guardian. At the conference the pupil shall be informed of:

  • the reason for the disciplinary action,
  • any other means of correction that were attempted before the suspension, and
  • the evidence against him or her.

The student is given the opportunity to present their version of events and any evidence.

In an emergency situation, there does not have to be a conference. Emergency situation means a situation determined by the principal to constitute a clear and present danger to the life, safety, or health of pupils or school personnel.

If a pupil is suspended without a conference, both the parent and the pupil must be notified.

Notice must be given within a reasonable time by telephone, mail, or other appropriate method. The notice must include:

  • notification of the suspension and how long it will last,
  • the reasons for the suspension,
  • that parents can request a meeting to discuss the suspension,
  • that parents can request a hearing within a reasonable time where the student may present his or her version of events and evidence in his or her defense.

Expulsion from school usually occurs for the most serious offenses, such as:

  • causing serious physical injury to another person, except in self-defense.
  • possession of any knife or other dangerous object,
  • unlawful possession of certain controlled substances,
  • assault or battery upon any school employee.

How does a student defend against accusations of threatening someone?

A student has the right to present evidence in their defense. These may claim:

  • the statements were a joke or not meant to be taken seriously,
  • mistaken identity, it wasn't me,
  • the statements were made in self-defense,
  • the acts were outside of school and not related to a school activity or school attendance.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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