Skip to Content

What happens to kids who get expelled?

Getting expelled from school can be a traumatic experience for both students and their families. An expulsion means a student is formally removed from their school for a set period of time, and in some cases, permanently. Expulsions usually occur after a student has committed a serious violation of school rules or policies, such as bringing weapons or drugs to campus, extreme violence or bullying, or repeated suspensions.

When a student is expelled, it represents a complete disruption in their education. No longer able to attend their regular classes and school, expelled students must quickly figure out alternative ways to continue learning and earning credits towards graduation. Unfortunately, in many cases, expulsion leads to students falling far behind, dropping out altogether, or ending up on paths that make it harder for them to be successful later in life.

What leads to expulsion?

There are a few main types of serious offenses that commonly result in expulsion:

– Weapons possession – Bringing guns, knives, or other dangerous weapons to school almost always leads to immediate expulsion. This is typically mandated by strict state and federal laws.

– Drug possession or dealing – Like weapons, being caught with or selling illegal drugs at school triggers automatic expulsion at most schools. This includes prescription drugs without a medical prescription.

– Violence or threats – Physical assaults, fighting, bullying, and making threats against other students or staff is grounds for expulsion. This covers actions on school grounds and increasingly cyberbullying or threats made online.

– Chronic disciplinary issues – Students who are repeatedly suspended for lesser violations may eventually be expelled. This includes things like skipping school, vandalism, and insubordination.

– Major theft or vandalism – Stealing school property or severely damaging school facilities may result in expulsion. This is especially likely during vandalism sprees causing thousands in damages.

What happens when a student is expelled?

The expulsion process involves several steps that unfold quickly once a decision is made:

– Investigation – School officials will investigate serious incidents and determine if expulsion is appropriate. They may conduct interviews, examine evidence like photos or videos, and in some cases contact police.

– Notification – If the investigation confirms grounds for expulsion, the student’s parents will be formally notified of the decision, upcoming expulsion hearing date, and a description of the student’s rights.

– Hearing – Most schools hold expulsion hearings where parents and students can contest the expulsion decision and provide evidence in their defense. These are similar to court proceedings.

– School board review – Many school boards themselves review expulsions and issue a final decision to uphold or overturn the expulsion. District policies dictate if this step is required.

– Notification of expulsion – If upheld, formal written notice is sent to parents outlining the length of expulsion, earliest reinstatement date, alternative school placement options, and a description of appeal rights if the family chooses to contest the decision further.

Where do expelled students go to school?

Once expelled from their regular school, students have a few options for continuing their education temporarily:

Alternative schools Most districts have alternative schools designed for high-risk students unable to stay in mainstreamed schools. This keeps them separate from the general student population.
Home schooling Parents may choose to home school students while expelled, often requiring checking in with the school district periodically to show progress.
Virtual schools Enrolling in state-approved online high school programs lets expelled students continue structured education outside of school buildings.
GED programs Some students pursue a GED while expelled, completing high school equivalency coursework and exams through adult education centers.

Without one of these options, expelled students miss out on education altogether during the expulsion period. They run the risk of falling irreparably behind and dropping out.

Can expulsions be appealed?

Most school districts allow appeals of expulsion decisions if families believe the process was unfair, biased, or did not follow official policies:

– School board appeals – Families can request the elected school board review the expulsion decision and determine if policies were followed appropriately. This is often the first appeal step.

– State appeals – If the dispute is not resolved locally, appeals can be made to the state department of education to review whether the expulsion violated any state laws around student discipline.

– Court appeals – As a last resort, families may sue the school district in court seeking to overturn the expulsion. The basis is often that it infringed upon the student’s constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law.

However, appeals do not always overturn expulsions. Unless clear evidence shows serious policy violations by the district, expulsion decisions are usually upheld throughout the appeals process.

What are the consequences of expulsion?

Beyond the immediate disruption to a child’s education, expulsions can start a cycle leading to further struggles down the road:

– Falling behind academically – Expelled students often cannot earn full credit, fall behind on graduation requirements, lose their place in desired academic programs, and have grades suffer.

– Social isolation – Removed from their friends and teachers at school, expelled students often feel lonely and disconnected. This takes a major toll on mental health.

– Dropping out – Students who fall severely behind are much more likely to get frustrated and drop out rather than keep struggling to catch up. Expulsion is linked to increased high school dropout rates.

– Criminal activity – Out of school with too much unsupervised time, expelled youth get into legal trouble more often, including using drugs, fighting, and committing crimes.

– Bleak outlook – Expelled teens are over 4 times more likely to end up incarcerated as adults. The stigma of expulsion and its effects create lasting barriers to getting back on track.

Finding alternative pathways

Though expulsion puts students at grave risk of extended hardship, some find ways to recover through tremendous perseverance and support:

– Behavioral counseling – Meeting regularly with counselors, psychologists, mentors, and support groups helps students reflect on past mistakes, build skills to avoid future missteps, and heal emotional wounds.

– Credit recovery programs – Short-term accelerated programs focusing just on earning credits needed for graduation are enormously helpful for expelled students to get back on track academically.

– New schools – Some students benefit from transferring to completely different school environments for a fresh start, whether traditional, vocational, alternative, charter schools.

– Legal help – Lawyers assist some expelled students to pursue appeals, civil rights complaints, disability accommodations, and protection of educational rights.

– Community programs – Some nonprofits and youth programs provide educational support, mentoring, employment assistance and wraparound services to help expelled students transition successfully.

Preventing expulsions

Many argue that the harm expulsions cause students outweighs any benefits, pushing schools to find alternatives to keep kids engaged in school:

– Restorative justice – Methods focus on reconciliation, behavioral change, and keeping students integrated in their school communities through open communication and earned redemption.

– Mental health care – Counseling troubled students to address root causes of their actions does more to change behavior than exclusion and isolation.

– Flexible discipline – Schools have discretion to consider circumstances in discipline beyond zero-tolerance, including past trauma, disabilities, peer pressure, and adolescent brain development.

– Early intervention – Mentoring struggling students, engaging their families, providing tutoring support, and referring counseling often gets kids back on track before extreme behavior escalates.

– Clear expectations – Students sometimes cross lines unknowingly, so clearly articulating school rules, modeling good behavior, teaching social skills, and reinforcing them consistently prevents issues.

– Diversion programs – For first-time or lower-risk incidents, required participation in education workshops, community service, counseling, screening for needs often steers students back on course without expulsion.


Getting expelled from school significantly disrupts a child’s entire trajectory, often setting them back in immeasurable ways for years. While disciplinary removal is sometimes warranted in extreme cases, schools should make every effort to employ graduated discipline approaches focused on teaching and redeeming challenging students to help them meet their potential without denying access to education. With compassion and a variety of robust interventions, even the most troubled young people often can get back on track and thrive.