When Does Expelled Mean Gone?

Public schools must comply with a number of statutes when disciplining children in their care.  When a student’s behavior is particularly egregious or impacts certain state or federal laws (such as firearms on campus), school administrators may determine it is in the District’s best and that of other students to recommend expulsion.

A.R.S. §15-840 defines “expulsion” as the “permanent withdrawal of the privilege of attending a school unless the governing board reinstates the privilege of attending the school.”  A.R.S. §15-841 (C) provides that a “school district may refuse to admit any pupil who has been expelled from another educational institution or who is in the process of being expelled from another educational institution.”  Similar language exists in A.R.S.  §15-184 (J) for charter schools.  Thus, once a child has been expelled, does that mean that the child is gone, never to darken the portals of any public school in Arizona again?

Not so fast!  First, neither A.R.S. §15-841 (C) nor A.R.S.  §15-184 (J) require a school district or charter school to refuse to admit a student that has been expelled or is in the process of being expelled.  It is within the discretion of the public school to admit or deny admission.

Further, if a student who is expelled is a child with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and Arizona law (A.R.S. §15-761)[1], the school district of residence must still provide the child with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), although it may do so in a different setting.  While the child may not physically be on the school campus, the school must continue to provide an educational program that will enable to student to progress in the general curriculum and must also provide IEP identified special education services.

All school district students may request that the governing board reconsider its decision to expel, pursuant to A.R.S. §15-841 (D), which states, “A school district may annually or upon the request of any pupil or the parent or guardian review the reasons for expulsion and consider readmission.”  In fact, an expulsion under A.R.S. §15-841 (G) already backtracks from the “permanent” withdrawal to an expulsion for a period of “not less than one year” for a pupil who is “determined to have brought a firearm to a school within the jurisdiction of the school district.”  Even that “mandatory” one-year expulsion for bringing a firearm to school can be modified on a “case by case basis.” “Expel” in this type of situation can also include placing the child in an alternative setting and continuing to provide educational services.

The same, “when we said ‘permanent,’ we meant at least a year…and hey, even that can be modified on a ‘case by case’ basis” is also applied in A.R.S. §15-841 (H) where the child is accused of actions that would constitute disruption of an educational institution under A.R.S. §13-2911.  In this case, the modification of the expulsion is granted when the child “participates in mediation, community service, restitution or other programs in which the pupil takes responsibility for the results of the threat” and can include placement in the alternative education program.  Interestingly enough, the school district can require the parent or guardian to participate in the mediation, community service, restitution or other programs in which the parent or guardian also takes responsibility with the child for the threats.

What happens when the student has been expelled and the governing board and administration do not want the student to return to school?  Is the student “gone”?  Maybe, but maybe not.  A little known and seldom used juvenile statute might still be applied to place the child back in the school over the objections of the school and despite the expulsion.  A.R.S. §8-371, enables a juvenile court judge to order a juvenile placed on probation or a child being released from the department of juvenile corrections (DOJC) to attend school as a condition of “conditional liberty” (the juvenile justice term for “parole”).  That is all well and good if the juvenile has not been expelled.

If the juvenile had been expelled from school, the court or the DOJC can overrule the expulsion.  The court can have the juvenile probation officer or the DOJC have the juvenile corrections case manager meet with school officials to assist in “developing conditions of probation or conditional liberty that will provide specific guidelines for behavior and consequences for misbehavior at school as well as educational objectives that must be achieved.”   Once that is accomplished, the court or the DOJC reviews the conditions of probation or conditional liberty for the juvenile and may choose to either continue the expulsion or return the child to school under the agreed conditions!  If the child is returned to the school under the specific behavioral guidelines, the governing board may expel the juvenile for subsequent actions as provided in title 15, chapter 8, article 3.  In the case of the juvenile expelled for subsequent violations of policy after being returned to school by a juvenile court judge or DOJC, “expelled” really does mean “gone”—unless the Board itself decides to reinstate the child.


This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Expelled, or other Education Law matters, please feel free to contact Candyce B. Pardee at  800.863.6718, log on to udallshumway.com,  or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona with a branch office in Yuma, Arizona, and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.


[1] “Child with a disability” means a child who is at least three years but less than twenty-two years of age, who has been evaluated pursuant to section 15-766 and found to have at least one of the following disabilities and who, because of the disability, needs special education and related services: Autism, Developmental delay, Emotional disability, Hearing impairment, Other health impairments, Specific learning disability, Mild, moderate or severe intellectual disability, Multiple disabilities, Multiple disabilities with severe sensory impairment, Orthopedic impairment, Preschool severe delay, Speech/language impairment, Traumatic brain injury, and/or Visual impairment.