Expulsion and Suspension MVLS cases are a Great Way to Learn



by Richard R. Chambers, Deputy Director, MVLS

It’s a little known fact that Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service handles a fair number of school suspension cases every year. These matters, decided after a sometimes grueling administrative procedure, not only differ substantively from the typical family law, landlord/tenant, or foreclosure cases that make up the bulk of the MVLS caseload; but there are fewer attorneys willing to take them on. This is why volunteers like Carl R. Gold are so important.

Carl, an experienced solo practitioner with an office just a few blocks from Downtown Towson, first volunteered for MVLS by taking a family law case in 1989. In recent years, however, he has been our “go-to” lawyer for school discipline and suspension cases in the Baltimore metro area.

One case that came to us in January was indicative of the school discipline matters we see. The client – Andrea – was just thirteen when another student began harassing her at school. Things came to a head in January when the student approached her at her locker and demanded that she fight. “Andrea wanting nothing to do with this,” says Carl. “She was a good student; active in her church and a member of the schools’ student council. This was not a troublemaker by any means.”

Unfortunately, Andrea’s tormentor began to kick and punch her. During the melee a teacher was hit, “Whenever a teacher is harmed during a school fight, that’s a category 3 offense,” Says Carl. “That’s as bad as it gets.” Both Andrea and the other student were punished. Andrea, despite having never started the fight, was facing possible expulsion.

In these situations, a student is brought before a superintendent’s designee for an administrative hearing. A wide range of outcomes are possible here – from expulsion to a dismissal of the charges. “Having legal representation at this hearing is crucial,” says Carl. “The process involved can overwhelm someone who is inexperienced.”

Luckily, Andrea’s Mom contacted MVLS and – as

usual – Carl was ready to take the case. “I’ve had some great experiences with the clients involved in these kinds of matters” he says. “And I could tell that these were good people thrown into a situation that could really damage a young girl’s future.”

The administrative hearing, though governed by very different rules from your standard court case, allows opportunities for a lawyer to put on a spirited defense of his or her client. “Every county school system has a slightly different approach to these cases” says Carl. “You have to really read the county’s student handbook and their code of conduct. The school system has a set of obligations too, and you need to make sure they meet them. Otherwise, your client won’t get the best result.”

In the end, Andrea’s result was a good one. She was only found to have participated in a disruption – nothing more. There was no expulsion and no further disciplinary hearings. Andrea’s Mom was thrilled. Her letter to MVLS said it all – “Mr. Gold was so wonderful! He was able to resolve this in a way that worked for everyone. We are truly thankful