The Hearing Process for School Expulsion or Suspensions

Once your client has been charged with an infraction of The Baltimore County Public Schools Student Handbook and the Principal unilaterally decides it is serious enough to warrant a hearing, the Principal refers the matter to one of the Superintendent’s Designees. They are spread out geographically so  where the student attends school will determine which Designee hears the case. The hearings are informal and testimony is taken without an oath. The Principal or Vice principal reads, out loud, an incident report and statements from faculty and students. Unless you obtain their attendance they will not be present for cross examination. There is no subpoena power so you can not compel their appearance. After the school has presented its case you may make a motion to dismiss. Grounds can include due process violations, illegal search or an improper charge. If your motion is denied it is your opportunity to present your case. Your student still retains 5th amendment privileges  but some Designees will still try to coerce your client to testify. Two concerns reoccur. Your client has most likely already given a written statement–no Miranda warnings apply unless the offense also involves a criminal charge. Additionally, the School Resource Officer (SRO) may be present and SRO is simply a fancy name for the police officer assigned to the school–so be careful. Testimony your client gives at this hearing could be used against her in later proceedings. Witness testimony on your side is permissible but parents of other students are often reluctant to allow their children to testify for obvious reasons and other faculty are similarly intimidated. When you can convince them to attend, the testimony can be very powerful because the Designees understand the pressures involved. Just like with judges, each Designee has his own quirks, sensitivities and preferred ways to handle the hearing so do your homework. My next post will include some of the strategies to increase your likelihood of success and how to appeal if the hearing does not go well. Contact me if you have any questions, [email protected].