Avoiding Disciplinary Placement in the California High School System

It's probably safe to say that your big plans for your child don't include intense high school disciplinary experiences.

In fact, successfully attaining a high school diploma may be a prerequisite for the future you want your child to have. While you may not have seen any issues with your child's journey to that diploma, it's becoming more and more clear that high school students and their families cannot just dismiss the specter of disciplinary processes.

Rather, students and families must be prepared. Increasingly, simple mistakes, miscommunications, and misunderstandings can result in a recommendation for disciplinary placement, expulsion, or other types of consequences that could threaten your child's future.

In this guide, we'll talk about some of the alternative educational programs that exist as a disciplinary option for many high schools in California — and how you can help your child avoid these and their associated ramifications.

What Is California's Approach to High School Discipline and Consequences?

Every state in America has a slightly different approach to high school discipline. Recently, California has reformed many of its processes to emphasize an opportunity for restorative justice.

Restorative justice or discipline, as a form of discipline that seeks to resolve tough situations without resorting to exclusionary discipline such as expulsions or suspensions, relies on community and relationship-building therapeutic techniques and listening to students who are going through difficult times.

Some examples of disciplinary measures that may be used as part of a restorative justice program include:

  • Therapy
  • Community service
  • Helping with any repairs needed as a result of the student's prohibited actions
  • Written or verbal apologies to parties wronged by the student

Many California high schools may try to implement some restorative justice techniques before taking more drastic action.

However, even though the goal might always be to keep kids in school, suspensions and expulsions do happen. As we'll touch on later, there are some prohibited behaviors that necessitate the removal of the involved students from the high school environment.

In order to avoid infringing the rights of the involved students, California high schools are required to have plans in place to ensure that expelled students still have access to education.

While it may seem that the Golden State has its bases covered and is looking out for your student, being sent to alternative education in California can have a long-lasting impact on your child. Here, we'll discuss what you as a parent may be able to do in order to help your student avoid that outcome.

What Types of Student Behavior Could Merit CA Alternative Education?

Your school's code of conduct should detail the specific behaviors that your school has deemed punishable, as well as the escalation plan that your school will follow in the event that a student's behavior does not respond well to initial reproductive justice (or less significant disciplinary measures).

While checking your own school's paperwork is the best idea, in this case, common prohibited behaviors in California schools include:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Student assault
  • Teacher assault
  • Weapons at school
  • Bullying
  • Computer misuse

In particular, under California's Education Code §48915(c), if your child is caught possessing or selling a firearm, brandishing a knife in the direction of a person, selling controlled substances, possessing explosives, or committing sexual battery or assault, that will automatically trigger an expulsion (and perhaps even an emergency removal).

This may even be the case if your student is unfairly associated with one of these offenses. Your school may be inclined to operate with more caution, not less — which may not be the best option for you and your student.

After My Student Is Expelled, What Are Their School Attendance Options?

Depending on the circumstances and the relationship your school may have with local alternative education programs, your student may be required to attend a juvenile court school, a community day school, or a county community school under California's Education Code §48915.2).

If those are environments you may not have chosen for your student — particularly if you don't have any say in which one, necessarily, your child heads to, you're not alone.

If you're wondering what's next, that's natural. Here are the answers to a few further questions you may be having.

How long will this California expulsion and disciplinary placement last?

This depends in part on the nature of the alleged offense and may be negotiated in an expulsion hearing (more on that in a moment). The maximum amount of time the expulsion is allowed to last is one full calendar year.

However, if the rehabilitation plan that you and your school come to an agreement on (partially during that all-important expulsion hearing) specifies goals that your student does not achieve during that year, the school representatives involved can move to extend the duration of your child's expulsion and disciplinary placement until your child meets the terms laid out in their rehabilitation plan.

What does a rehabilitation plan look like for a high school student expelled in California?

In California, per California Education Code Section 48926, every three years, the county superintendents must develop a plan for making sure that all students receive an education — even if they're suspended or expelled. If the plan already exists, every three years, the superintendents must revisit the plan and submit it to state authorities for approval.

This plan must feature viable educational options for students who have been expelled. It must also detail what might happen if a student does not meet the terms of their individual rehabilitation plan.

The specifics of your student's rehabilitation plan may be unique, but some common terms and conditions required for readmission to your student's original school include:

  • Maintaining grades above a certain GPA
  • Maintaining a good attendance rate