While an expulsion hearing is not as formal as a court trial, it is a legal proceeding and it may be the only chance you get to tell your story. There is no right to appeal the hearing officer’s decision in court if you are not happy with the outcome. The hearing will be recorded or someone will write down everything that is said. The hearing officer will listen while each party tells its side of the story and will then decide
- whether or not the child broke the rules,
- whether or not the child should be expelled, and
- how long the expulsion will last.
The school’s presentation
The school officials must show enough evidence to prove that expelling the student is reasonable. The school will go first in presenting its case against your child. It will need to prove that your child broke the rules by having a witness tell the facts to the hearing officer. The witness must be someone who actually saw what happened. For example, the principal cannot tell the hearing officer, "I didn’t see what happened, but the teacher told me _________."
A school official will ask questions of the school’s witnesses. In addition to having witnesses say what they saw and heard, the school can show documents that support its position, including evidence about your child’s past discipline problems.
If the school doesn’t have a witness who was actually there when the incident took place, or if the school tries to prove its case using only written documents, be sure to point this out to the hearing officer.
The student, his or her parents, or their representative may ask questions of (or cross-examine) the witnesses after the school official is finished questioning them. The purpose of cross-examination is to bring out additional information that might be helpful to the child’s case.
It will not help your child’s case if you argue with a witness, even if you think he or she is not telling the truth. It is better for you and your own witnesses to explain what happened when it is your turn to speak.
The student’s response
When the school is done presenting its case, it will be your turn to present your child’s case. Ask each of your witnesses to come forward to speak about
- what they saw or heard,
- what they know about the incident, or
- what they know about your child.
The school will then have a chance to question your witnesses.
Your child is not required to testify about what happened, and in some cases, it may be better if he or she doesn’t testify. (See the section below about Juvenile Court.)
Once each witness has spoken and any written evidence has been given to the hearing officer, each side may have a chance to make a final statement. This is your chance to briefly explain what you think happened and what you think should happen to your child. Finish by asking the hearing officer not to expel your child or to expel your child for only a very short time.
To make the best possible presentation to the board, you will need to be prepared, organized, and polite. Angry words or behavior directed at the school officials or the board will only add additional stress to the situation and could even hurt your child’s case.