Expulsion (education)

Expulsion, or permanent exclusion, refers to the removal or banning of a student from a school system or university due to persistent violation of that institution's rules, or in extreme cases, for a single offense of marked severity. Laws and procedures regarding expulsion vary between countries and states.

Various colloquialisms refer to this practice for example, being kicked out of school or sent down. The alleged practice of pressuring parents to voluntarily withdraw their child from an educational institution is a comparable exercise.[1]

United Kingdom

State sector

If a student has been expelled from two schools, then any state school is legally allowed to refuse admittance of that student. Schools on special measures may refuse to admit a student who has been expelled from only one school. Therefore, a student who has been expelled from two schools might be totally removed from the state education system. As a result, it is rare for a pupil to be expelled or permanently excluded in the UK's state sector.

The exclusion of pupils is governed by the Education Act 2002.[2]

The Secretary of State's guidance states that exclusion is a serious step. Exclusion should be used only in response to serious breaches of a school's discipline policy and only after a range of alternative strategies to resolve the pupil's disciplinary problems have been tried and proven to have failed and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would be seriously detrimental to the education or welfare of other pupils and staff, or of the pupil himself or herself.

In practice, a student can usually be subject to permanent exclusion for a total of five disciplinary breaches, for which the student does not have to receive formal warnings. Depending on his or her offence, a child can be excluded from the school system within any range of time after his or her misdeed. Though the teaching staff may recommend a pupil to be expelled, only the headteacher is legally empowered to exclude a student; he or she is not permitted to delegate that power to another person, but if he or she is ill or otherwise unable to perform his or her duties, another staff member may become the acting headteacher and inherit the power to expel students.

When excluding a student, the headteacher must inform the pupil's parents of the duration of the exclusion whether it be temporary or permanent, reasons for exclusion, and the procedures which a parent may take to make an appeal. The headteacher must also inform the local education authority of the circumstances surrounding permanent exclusions, fixed term exclusions exceeding five days, and exclusions which result in a student being unable to take a public examination.

Reasons for expulsion

A headteacher might exclude a pupil out for a first or one off incident of appropriate severity.[3] For a single case of one of the following, a pupil can be expelled permanently for:

If a student has previous records of violating other school rules, that too could result in expulsion. In these cases, expulsion is used as a final resort if the student's behaviour has not improved. Some offences which may result in expulsion when repeated persistently include, but is not limited to:

Pupils who have done nothing wrong to merit expulsion are sometimes expelled if the school does not expect them to achieve sufficiently high grades in external examinations. This illegal policy seriously harms the life chances of young people.[4] Since many violent students often rebel against school rules, some head teachers may choose to expel a student who has performed an act of violence against another pupil for persistent defiance rather than violence. This is in order to protect the victim from being assaulted again as revenge for the excluded student's expulsion. Some regard this totting up process of persistent defiance to be unfair, as the pupil will have often been punished once already for each act, and expulsion can be seen as a second punishment imposed after the matter had been settled.


The pupil and his or her parents can appeal to the school governors against the expulsion. If the appeal fails to reinstate the pupil, a further appeal can be made to an appeals board which sits on the behalf of the local education authority.

Appeals to the governors

The parents of an excluded pupil are entitled to appeal against expulsion or an exclusion exceeding five days to a panel of school governors acting as a court.

The panel, which consists of parents and staff and cannot include the headteacher, is not legally able to exclude a pupil or extend a term of exclusion; but it can convert a permanent exclusion to a fixed term one, reduce the length of a fixed-term exclusion, or cancel an exclusion.

The appeal must occur no sooner than six days after and no more than 15 days after the exclusion begins. The panel considers oral, written, or physical evidence from the school detailing the case for expulsion, and from the parents of the excluded pupil. The pupil and his or her parents may argue that the excluded pupil was not responsible for the act for which he or she has been excluded, or that the punishment was disproportionate to the offence.

Appeal to the local education authority

If the appeal to the governors is unsuccessful, an expelled or excluded student and his or her parents may go to an appeals board. This panel, which is appointed by the local education authority, must be autonomous of the authority, the school, and the parents of the excluded student.[3]

The majority of the appeals that these panels hear are not against exclusions, but are for the admission of pupils into schools. Although the local education authority are in theory obligated to provide education to a pupil under school leaving age Year 11 and below, in practice usually when the pupil is denied access to other schools or the pupil referral unit the local education authority employs techniques such as appointing a single tutor for one lesson a week.

There are a number of projects that provide free legal representation to pupils who are appealing against their permanent exclusion from school. The institution cited in letters detailing the reasons for permanent exclusions is the Coram Children's Legal Centre.[5]

There are voluntary groups who provide trainee lawyers to represent parents at both governing body appeals and independent appeal panels. The City Matrix Chambers School Exclusions Project is one such project.[6]

Independent sector

In the independent sector, a pupil may be permanently excluded at the discretion of the headteacher.

Distinction between expulsion and rustication

Whereas expulsion from a UK independent school means permanent removal from the school, rustication or suspension usually means removal from the school for a set period, for example, the remainder of the current term.

United States and Canada

Expulsion in General

In the United States and Canada, expulsion criteria and process vary from state to state or province. Depending on local school board jurisdiction, approval from that school's local school board may be required before a student can be expelled, as opposed to a suspension, which may require approval from the principal or a school board member, including the superintendent. Students who have been expelled from the school face numerous restrictions, in which they are no longer eligible to attend or visit the school, and are also disallowed from attending or performing any activity with any students or staff who are active with the school. Students who breach an expulsion, which includes visiting the school they have been expelled from, or perform or attend any activity with any students or staff who are active with the school, will be arrested for, and charged with trespassing. Students are usually not expelled for academic violations such as plagiarism that would be punishable in college. However, in some jurisdictions such as California, vulgarity which is not defined anywhere within California law is enough of a reason for a student to be expelled from any school. [7] Note California statute has been indirectly invalidated by the Supreme Court in FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc. (2012))

Pupil Rights

While in the Criminal or Juvenile Justice one has enumerated and unenumerated rights upon accusation, pupils do not have such rights when within an expulsion process. For example, in California, pupils have the following rights:

  • Have an expulsion hearing within 30 school days[8]
  • To appeal the results of an expulsion hearing
  • To remain silent

However there are rights that pupils do not have during the expulsion process that they would have in a court of law:

Expulsion Rates

While at one time it was difficult for a student to be expelled from public school, that is no longer the case. A 2001 report from Justice Policy Institute showed that expulsions nearly doubled from 1974 to 1998 despite student victimization rates remaining stable.[11] Expulsion is especially high for students of color, even when their behavioral infractions are the same as those of white children, and teachers need to identify and combat bias to ensure all students are treated with equity.[12] Beginning with the Gun-Free School Zones Act, and following the Columbine shooting tragedy, schools have become increasingly willing to suspend or have expelled students for minor behavior offenses.[13] For example, in Maryland during the 2006-2007 school year, while 2% of suspensions were for weapons, 37% were for disrespect, insubordination, or disruption.[14] The Task Force on the Education of Maryland’s American Males noted that high suspension and expulsion rates do little more than increase court referrals for minor misbehavior, and those actions put a child on the path toward delinquency or accelerates his journey there.[15] These policies are more generally known as zero tolerance.[13]

Students who have been expelled from a building in primary and secondary schools typically are forced to attend class at an alternate location. Alternative schools are usually owned by the expelling school district for expelled students to attend daily lessons. Students have other options, such as boarding schools, private schools, and online courses, such as APEX or K-12. In some states, such as Wisconsin, other public school districts are not required to enroll students who are currently serving a term of expulsion.[16] In some cases, such as permanent expulsion from a district, this type of statutory authority can have the effect of displacing an expelled student from the public education system of an entire state, effectively ending their educational career.[17] When it comes to student discipline, there is a marked difference in procedure between public and private institutions. With public schools, the school must provide the student with constitutional due process protections as public educational institutions operate as an extension of state governments. With private schools, on the other hand, the student can be expelled for any reason so long as the expulsion was not “arbitrary and capricious. Generally, as long as a private school follows the procedures in its student handbook, a court will not view its actions as arbitrary and capricious.[18][19]

Some states like Texas report expulsion to the juvenile court system the model in Texas was passed in 1995.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, exclusion and expulsion are methods for removing a student from a school for misconduct. Both are governed by sections 13 to 19 of the Education Act 1989,[20] and the Education Stand Down, Suspension, Exclusion, and Expulsion Rules 1999.[21]

The difference between exclusion and expulsion is that students aged under 16 are excluded, while students aged 16 and over are expelled. For students excluded, because they are under the minimum school leaving age, the excluding school is required to find an alternative school for the student to attend, or reinstate the student if another school cannot be found. For students that are expelled, the expelling school is not required to find an alternative school, as the student is over the minimum school leaving age.

Exclusion/expulsion cannot be directly done by the principal. It must be done through suspending the student, and requiring the school's board of trustees, or a standing disciplinary committee of the board, to independently assess whether or not the situation is serious enough to justify exclusion or expulsion of the student.[22]

In 2009, exclusions and expulsions rates were 2.41 and 2.01 per thousand students respectively. Students were more likely to be excluded or expelled if they were male, of Maori or Pacific Island descent, and/or attended a school with a low (1-4) socioeconomic decile.[23]

The most common reasons for exclusions and expulsions in 2009 were:[24][25]

  • Continual disobedience – 41.2% of exclusions/25.3% of expulsions
  • Drugs incl. substance abuse – 14.2%/25.8%
  • Physical assault on other students – 17.3%/16.8%
  • Theft – 4.4%/8.9%
  • Verbal assault on staff – 5.0%/2.6%
  • Physical assault on staff – 4.5%/1.6%
  • Weapons – 2.5%/2.6%
  • Vandalism – 1.3%/2.6%
  • Alcohol – 1.0%/3.7%
  • Verbal assault on other students – 1.1%/0.5%

Arson, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and smoking were the other main reasons for exclusion and expulsion recorded.


In mainland China, expulsions of compulsory education schools are completely banned under the Article 27 of the Compulsory Education Act.

See also


  1. Tuzzolo, E., & Hewitt, D. T. (2006). "Rebuilding inequity The re-emergence of the school to prison pipeline in New Orleans". The High School Journal. 90 (2): 59–68. doi:10.1353/hsj.2007.0009. Other parents have indicated that instead of expelling students, some schools have simply adopted an informal push out policy. Reportedly, parents have been called into the school to discuss their children’s behavior upon arriving they were presented with a pre completed withdrawal form, asked to sign and find a more suitable school for their children.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  2. Chapter 12, A Guide to the Law for School Governors, Community Schools edition. ISBN 1-84478-121-6 / ISBN 1-84478-543-2. DFES reference GTTLC2004 / DFES-0227-2005. Crown copyright 2004 2006.
  3. Improving Behaviour And Attendance Guidance On Exclusion From Schools and Pupil Referral Units, DCSF. September 2008. ISBN 978-1-84775-160-7.
  4. Government 'complicit in school's illegal exclusion policy' BBC
  5. "Coram Children's Legal Centre Home". Coram.
  6. "City/Matrix School Exclusions Project". City, University of London.
  7. "California Education Code § 48900(i)". California Office of Legislative Counsel. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  8. "Article 1 of Chapter 6 of Part 27 of Division 4 of Title 2 of the California Education Code". California Office of Legislative Counsel. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  9. "California Education Code § 48918(f)(2)". California Office of Legislative Counsel. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
  10. Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution
  11. Aaron Kupchik (2010-08-01). Homeroom Security: School Discipline In An Age of Fear. New York and London: New York University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-8147-4845-9. Retrieved 2015-03-13.
  12. Thompson, GL. And Thompson, R. 2014. Yes, you can Advice for teachers who want a great start and a great finish with their students of color. Thousand Oaks, CANADA Corwin.
  13. Russell J. Skiba. "Zero tolerance, zero evidence An analysis of school disciplinary practice" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2003-09-14. Retrieved 2013-01-27.
  14. Sundius, Jane; Farneth, Molly. "Putting kids out of school: What's causing high suspension rates and why they are dangerous to students, schools, and communities" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-09-27.
  15. "Task Force on the Education of Maryland's African-American Males" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-04-28. Retrieved 2013-01-27.
  16. "Wisconsin Statutes governing the power of school boards". Retrieved 2013-12-05.
  18. Tenerowicz, Lisa (1 May 2001). "Student Misconduct at Private Colleges and Universities A Roadmap". Boston College the Review. 42 (3): 653. Retrieved 19 July 2017. In the absence of constitutional protections, courts generally have required that private school disciplinary proceedings adhere to a fundamental' or basic fairness standard and not be arbitrary or capricious.
  19. See, e.g., "Mahaffey v. William Carey Univ., 180 So.3d 846 (Miss. Ct. App. 2015)". Google Scholar. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  20. "Education Act 1989 No 80 (as at 14 May 2019), Public Act Contents – New Zealand Legislation". www.legislation.govt.nz.
  21. "Education (Stand-Down, Suspension, Exclusion, and Expulsion) Rules 1999 (SR 1999/202) (as at 18 June 1999) – New Zealand Legislation". www.legislation.govt.nz.
  22. "New Zealand Ministry of Education - Education (Stand-down, Suspension, Exclusion, and Expulsion) Rules". Retrieved 2009-03-05.
  23. "Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions from school -- Indicators -- Education Counts". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  24. "Exclusions from school -- Indicators -- Education Counts". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  25. "Expulsions from school -- Indicators -- Education Counts". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
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