School Litigation — Unfair Expulsion or Suspension

Many students who commit conduct violations receive suspensions and expulsions. These forms of punishment have an impact on both their immediate and long-term future.

Not only does a suspension or expulsion limit a student's access to school, but they can also go on their disciplinary record. Marks on a disciplinary record may limit a student's ability to transfer schools, pursue higher education opportunities, or advance their career.

In some cases, student conduct warrants suspension and expulsion. But what happens if a school suspends or expels a student for a minor offense or reasons not warranting such severe action?

Schools don't always play by the rules when it comes to punishing students. If you or someone you know received an unfair sanction from a school, you must fight back. Let's review how to identify unfair suspensions and expulsions and how an attorney can help overturn these sanctions.

Suspension and Expulsions Basics

Suspension is a short-term removal from classes for a set time, usually up to 10 days for high school students, and for college students, anywhere from one semester up to three years in some cases. Expulsion is a long-term ban from school. Students may face permanent expulsion or expulsion that lasts for a set time— such as a school semester or calendar year. Many schools require students to complete requirements before being reinstated at school.

State and federal laws can designate which behaviors lead to student suspension and expulsion. For example, federal laws forbid students from harassing other students or bringing a weapon to school.

The best way to understand suspension and expulsion policies is to review a school's student code of conduct. Schools typically provide students with codes of conduct at the beginning of the year, and they also put them on their websites.

The student code of conduct outlines prohibited behaviors and punishments for violations. It also defines the school's disciplinary procedures.

How Schools Handle Conduct Violations

Although schools have the right to punish students for conduct violations, students also have the right to defend themselves. Schools must provide students with due process throughout disciplinary proceedings. Due process means that everyone has the right to fair treatment.

In cases involving suspension and expulsion, schools generally must conduct a hearing to investigate alleged violations, especially for public high school students and below. These hearings provide students with an opportunity to defend themselves and present evidence supporting their argument.

Students at public colleges and universities generally will have similar rights although students at private colleges and universities (and high schools for example) will generally have the rights afforded by the school's code of conduct which can be much more limited in scope compared to public institutions.

Before conducting a disciplinary hearing, schools must also give the student the ability to prepare for the hearing. Students typically receive written notice before the hearing so they can create a defense.

Unfortunately, schools do not always play fair when it comes time to drop the hammer. Many schools have infringed upon student rights and cut corners during investigations. In some cases, schools also suspend or expel students for minor violations that do not warrant these sanctions.

A suspension or expulsion can have life-changing consequences for a student. If you feel your school gave you unfair treatment, you must contact an attorney. Many schools allow attorneys to advise students during disciplinary hearings. An attorney will hold the school accountable for following its policies. They can also identify violations of your rights and take legal action should you receive unfair treatment.

Signs of Unfair Suspension and Expulsion

Are you unsure if a suspension or expulsion is unfair? While schools handle discipline on a case-by-case basis, there are some common signs that a suspension or expulsion is unjust. Here are some reasons why you might want to challenge a school's sanctions.

Lack of Notice

You should review your student code of conduct to see its policy on providing notice before disciplinary hearings. Schools generally provide students with at least five business days to prepare for hearings that result in suspension or expulsion. These notices usually include details on the alleged violation and potential sanctions. If they fail to notify you of the hearing in a timely fashion, you can file a lawsuit.


Federal civil rights laws forbid schools from discriminating against students based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and more. If you experienced discrimination or a biased outcome during investigations, you have grounds for an appeal and litigation.

Lack of Evidence

Schools can invoke minor punishments, like detention, without proving that a conduct violation occurred. For violations that lead to suspension or expulsion, there must be substantial evidence proving the allegation. Schools typically use the preponderance of evidence standard, meaning they must prove that it is more likely than not that the violation occurred.

Procedural Error

Did your school make a mistake during disciplinary proceedings? You might be able to overturn their decision. Errors in hearing procedures that substantially affect the decision may invalidate sanctions.

Inappropriate Violation

Schools take both the nature of the offense and student conduct records into account when determining sanctions. Minor or first-time conduct violations do not typically warrant expulsion. An attorney can help you identify whether an alleged violation rose to the level of suspension or expulsion.

How to Prove Unfair Suspension and Expulsion

The best thing you can do if you or your child experiences unfair suspension or expulsion is contact an attorney. An attorney can review school policies, local legislation, and federal laws to determine if you should file a lawsuit.

In many cases, schools allow students to use an advisor during disciplinary proceedings. Advisors can create a defense that is vital to the case's outcome.

A student discipline attorney can also recognize any violations of rights that might determine the outcome. If you receive an unfair suspension or expulsion, an attorney will help you file an appeal and overturn the decision.

Lawyers can also guide you through the steps necessary to sue a school. They can help you file a claim notice and lawsuit if you received unfair treatment. In many cases, students recover compensation for discrimination or biased outcomes.

Your Student-Discipline Defense Attorney

Suspensions and expulsions can have a devastating impact on students. If you or a loved one experienced an unfair sanction, you must challenge the school by using a student-discipline defense attorney.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has unparalleled experience advocating for students and overturning unfair suspensions and expulsions across the nation. He has the knowledge and resources to give you a chance at appealing these sanctions, recovering compensation, and achieving justice. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to speak with attorney Joseph D. Lento today.