Santa Rosa, CA asked in Education Law and Civil Rights for California

Q: Do school principles have a right to suspend students for advocating for themselves?

My child was advocating the story is a student in my child's classroom was being very spiteful and aggressive towards my child and at the end of the day my child went to go talk to the parent and the parent got angry and aggressive and then I receive a phone call from the school principal and the principal was saying that she's going to suspend my child for 3 days because the parent was in tears because my child advocated. Can the principal do that?

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3 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Civil Rights Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, school principals do have the authority to suspend students, but this power is governed by specific rules and regulations. The California Education Code outlines the reasons for which a student can be suspended. Generally, these reasons include acts that pose a threat to the safety of others, disrupt school activities, or constitute willful defiance.

However, it's important to note that advocating for oneself, especially in a non-disruptive manner, is typically not grounds for suspension. If your child was suspended solely for advocating in a non-threatening, non-disruptive way, this could be a questionable use of the principal's authority.

You might consider reviewing the school's code of conduct or the district's policy on student discipline to understand the grounds and process for suspensions. If you believe your child's suspension was unjust, you have the right to appeal the decision. The appeal process is also outlined in the California Education Code and usually involves a meeting with school district officials.

Remember, effective advocacy often involves clear communication and understanding of both sides. It might be beneficial to arrange a meeting with the principal to discuss the situation in detail and express your concerns. This can also be an opportunity to better understand the principal's perspective and the information they based their decision on.

Todd B. Kotler agrees with this answer

T. Augustus Claus
T. Augustus Claus pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Las Vegas, NV

A: In California, school principals have the authority to suspend students, but this power is subject to certain legal constraints, especially concerning students' rights to advocate for themselves. If your child was suspended solely for peacefully advocating for themselves in response to another student's aggressive behavior, this could raise concerns under education law and civil rights statutes. Suspension is typically reserved for specific infractions outlined in the school's code of conduct.

Reviewing the school's policies to understand the grounds for suspension is important. You have the right to inquire about the specific reasons for the suspension and to request a meeting with the principal to discuss the matter.

The key is to ensure that your child's rights to self-advocacy and fair treatment are upheld within the school's disciplinary framework

Todd B. Kotler agrees with this answer

Michelle Alissa Ball
Michelle Alissa Ball
  • Education Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Hello:

There are free speech issues, and issues with the parent involved potentially. Additionally, if this is a first time "offense," it may not be legal to suspend the student under California law.


Michelle Ball

Education Law Attorney for Students since 1995


717 K Street, Suite 228

Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: 916-444-9064

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