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Schools Must Follow Procedures to Suspend or Expel Students

Q: What is the difference between a suspension and an expulsion?
A: A principal or superintendent may prohibit a student from attending school for a period of up to ten days; this is considered a suspension. The removal of a student from school for more than ten days is an expulsion. Students are generally expelled for more serious offenses, such as bringing weapons or drugs to school.

Q: What is the maximum length of an expulsion?
 Generally, a superintendent may expel a student for up to 80 days, or the number of school days remaining in the semester in which the incident in question takes place, whichever is greater. If there are less than 80 days remaining in the school year, the expulsion may be extended into the following school year.

For students who bring firearms onto school property, both state and federal laws require a one-year expulsion. The superintendent may modify this requirement on a case-by-case basis. In addition, the board of education may enact a policy permitting the superintendent to expel for one year a student who brings a knife to school, makes a bomb threat or commits certain acts on school property that would be considered a crime if committed by an adult. A superintendent also may expel a student for up to one year if the student brings a firearm or knife to an interscholastic competition, an extracurricular event, or any other school program or activity.

Q: May a student be permanently expelled?
Yes, but only in limited circumstances and only for the most serious offenses. If a student, aged 16 or older, is convicted of offenses such as murder or manslaughter of a school employee, selling drugs or possessing a deadly weapon on school grounds, the board of education may request that the state superintendent of public instruction permanently exclude the student from attendance at any public school in Ohio.

Q: If a student is suspended or expelled from District A, can he or she just transfer to District B?
Not necessarily. First, there are certain rules that govern where a student attends school, such as the residence of the parents or payment of tuition. Second, the law allows the receiving/new district (District B) to temporarily deny admission to a student who has been suspended or expelled from another district until the time period of the suspension or expulsion has expired.

Q: What procedure does a school need to follow to suspend a student?
A: Prior to the suspension, the superintendent or principal must give the student written notice of the intention to suspend and provide the student with an opportunity to appear at an informal hearing to challenge the reason for the intended suspension or to explain his/her actions. This is an informal hearing, so the school need not allow the student to have legal counsel or question witnesses. If, as a result of the hearing, the principal decides the student should be suspended, he/she must notify the parents, in writing, of the reasons for the suspension. This notice must also inform the parents of the right of appeal to the board of education or its designee and to be represented at the appeal hearing.

Q: What procedure must be followed for an expulsion?
Because of the serious nature of the offenses that typically lead to an expulsion and the longer time period the student will be removed from school, the procedures to be followed for an expulsion are more formal than those for a suspension. The superintendent must give the student and the student's parents written notice of the intent to expel and provide the student, parents, or a representative of the student the opportunity to appear before the superintendent or the superintendent's designee to challenge the reasons for the intended expulsion.

If the superintendent decides that an expulsion is warranted, he/she must send a notice of the expulsion to the parents and student. This notice must include the reasons for the expulsion and notice of the right to appear before the board of education or its designee to appeal the expulsion.

Q: Do the above rules apply to in-school suspensions, "Saturday school" or removal of a student from class by a teacher?
No. These are considered "routine" disciplinary measures and do not require the formality needed to suspend or expel a student.


Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). This article was prepared by Richard A. Slee, former Deputy Director for Legal Services for the Ohio School Boards Association and currently the Assistant Director of the OSBA Continuing Legal Education Institute. It was updated by Hollie F. Reedy, an attorney with the Ohio School Boards Association.

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

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