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By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

School staff willfully inflicting physical pain to students is considered corporal punishment and prohibited in California unless certain exceptions exist.  As such, hitting, pulling hair, pinching, kicking, and other forms of physically painful contact with a student, usually are unacceptable and illegal.

In California Education Code section 49001, "Corporal Punishment" is defined as: "willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a pupil."  This means that any PHYSICAL PAIN caused intentionally to a student, by a person employed or engaged by a school, is not okay.  Would purposefully slamming a student into a wall, spanking a student, slapping their hand with a ruler, and/or lifting a student out of a pool by their hair be considered "corporal punishment?"  To determine this, ask yourself: was physical pain caused to the student?  Was the physical pain intentionally caused by the school representative?  If the answer is yes, the conduct could constitute prohibited corporal punishment under section 49001 so long as it does not fit under an exception.

Education Code section 49001 lists the exceptions to corporal punishment as follows:

"An amount of force that is reasonable and necessary for a person ... to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to persons or damage to property, for purpose of self-defense, or to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects within the control of the pupil is not ... corporal punishment.  "

If a student were pulled by their hair to prevent drowning, knocked into a wall in an attempt to obtain a gun, or hurt when the staff member was trying to stop them from being punched, causing physical pain might not be considered prohibited under the circumstances.  But we can all see how that is different from going after a kid to cause them pain with no legitimate reason.  If there were harm caused in a justified situation, the only question then would be, was the physical pain caused "reasonable and necessary?"  That may be a matter of opinion as even in "self-defense," staff can go to far.

If parents encounter what they believe to be intentionally caused physical pain and/or harm by a teacher or other school representative, they may want to file a personnel and/or other type of complaint to ensure the person involved is corrected and the matter resolved.  Otherwise, the staff member could continue their improper conduct with even more dire consequences the next time.


Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

originally published 5/16/2011, updated 4/8/2019
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By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Has your son or daughter told you they are being punished by school staff while other kids doing the same things are not?  Do they complain often about being treated bad in class or being excluded by the teacher?  Did you believe them?  Should you?

As parents we know our children.  We know they are fantastic, wonderful, amazing, and also that they can be troublemakers and sometimes make things up.  We also naturally trust school staff as revered authority figures.  The schools know this and use this to their advantage.  

I know when I was a kid I never thought schools or school staff could do wrong.  I thought schools were safe places and the staff would always help me.  It is this viewpoint that keeps parents doubting their kids when they may actually be reporting a REAL problem.  As parents we may tend to doubt them if they say a teacher wronged them, as we think: "Teacher X would never do that!"  I am sorry to say, sometimes Teacher X may "do that."

I have met with many parents who find their child is an inappropriate target of staff at their school.  They have either been labelled a troublemaker, and are then blamed for everything happening around them; or a staff member just does not like them,and as a result picks on them or excludes them.  Neither case is appropriate.

But what should a parent do about it?  There are some basic steps which could help.

First, get all the information from your child on what is happening, who is involved, and the circumstances.  

Next, investigate further.  Can you schedule a visit to the classroom or campus to observe?  Can you speak with staff about how your child is doing and what is going on in class?  It is possible this may solve it.  

If this does not put an end to the situation, a parent may want to have a meeting with the school administration to discuss.  A written submission of the situation could be a good idea and daily email of issues may be needed to keep a record, as well as put the school on notice.

The District is a resource as well if things cannot be resolved at the school level.  

Often I find that parents are not believed either, as school/district personnel may have the "No staff member would do wrong" syndrome.  Schools also tend to believe their own staff over a parent, and definitely pick and choose when to believe a child.  One minute the kid is the source of all knowledge (for example when they accuse another kid of selling drugs or bullying) and another time the child will not be believed when they are the victim.  Who knows which time this is.

Ultimately, you may end up needing to file a formal investigation request and/or personnel complaint on the situation.

If all else fails, you can also seek an intradistrict transfer, but often for parents this is a last resort.  However, your child and their safety is important and if things can't or won't get corrected, sometimes we need to do something else.

I think the message I have for parents is that you SHOULD listen to your kids on allegations they have.  At least listen then investigate for yourself.  Too much bad stuff goes on at school that parents find out too late.  What I have heard over the past 20+ years from parents is enough to make any parent run far away from any school.... but I only hear the bad stuff and am a tad jaded as a result.  There is plenty of good in schools, but we need to help our kids when they tell us something bad is occurring.  As, oftentimes they may be right!

Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 
717 K Street, Suite 228 
Sacramento, CA 95814 
Phone: 916-444-9064 
Email:help@edlaw4students.com 
Fax: 916-444-1209
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]


Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

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By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Over the years, I have had my eyes opened far larger than the average parent on just what can lead to school discipline due to all the terrible stories I have heard in my law practice.  I often find myself trying to cram in general advice for parents on what to tell their kids so they will be less likely to get suspended or expelled.  Is it possible to prevent all chance of suspension or expulsion?  No.  However, perhaps a little wisdom shared with your kids may help them avoid some issues.

So, here are some simple things to share with your kids, whatever age they may be, to try to prevent problems long before they start:  

Things Brought to School

1)  Don't bring any odd household objects to school.  For example, that steak knife, or that sharp thing from your recent trip, may mean discipline.
2)  Check your pants pockets prior to going to school and don't leave any multitools or pocket knives in them.  Kids may go fishing over the weekend and drop a multitool with a blade into their pocket and wear the same pants to school.  We don't want to bring these items to school.
3)  Same goes for backpacks, purses, and anything taken to school. [Parents- check their stuff too.]
4)  Never bring a weapon or fake weapon (e.g. airsoft gun), to school, for "protection" or for any other reason.

Found/Shared Items

5)  Don't agree to hold anything for anyone else.  
6)  Don't pick up that dangerous object you see on the ground- tell an adult if you wish (parents you decide on that one), but don't touch it.  

Physical Contact

7)  Don't hit or stab someone with something.  Even a pencil can be a weapon if used the wrong way.
8)  Hands off is a great policy. And no hitting, shoving, tripping, etc.
9)  Don't get in that fight- handle it another way if possible as discipline usually follows regardless of who started it.  

Communication

10)  Don't make fun of others for being fat, gay, from a certain country, for being male/female, etc.- this could lead to a bullying allegation and discipline.
11)  Don't draw (e.g. doodling etc.) weapons, explosives or scenes of murder, decapitation, etc,.  Teachers and school staff are sensitive to these.
12)  Don't repeat (verbally, in writing, etc.) violent lyrics.  The lyric "I'm gonna roll in and destroy you," can be misinterpreted and be a basis for discipline.
13)  Don't make lists of classmates for negative purposes or say you have a "list" of classmates you don't like/want to hurt, etc.  
14)  Don't tell anyone you are going to hurt them, may hurt them, someone will hurt them, etc.
15)  Don't say or post that you are going to damage or harm the school, students, or a school staff member at any time.

Social Media

16)  Be very careful what you post, like, comment on, and what student groups you join on line.  I have seen students punished for posting/liking a post that was allegedly improper and for being in a group which made fun of students.
17)  Don't take or post photos with weapons or imitation weapons (e.g. air soft guns).
18)  Be careful what you text/photograph/forward.
19)  A "private group" is not really a private group on line.  Other students (even non-members) or a parent may turn in something inappropriate.  Just get your kids to understand that ultimately, nothing is really "private" on line, regardless how small the group.
20)  Snapchat, despite rumors, is definitely not a safe place to post things - many kids think Snapchat means instant post then gone forever.  You don't know how many times I have had Snapchat posts as a basis for discipline.  People screenshot items and turn them in to schools all the time.
21)  No nude photos of yourself or others.  And don't pass them on if someone sends these to you.

Relationships

22)  Be careful with relationships- I have many times seen girls make allegations against boys which get them in trouble, and the boys have no defense if no one else is there.  This applies to all genders and all types of relationships.

Drugs/Medications

23)  Don't agree to get any improper substance for anyone, for free, paid or otherwise.  No controlled substances should be exchanged.
24)  No possession of nicotine, vaping material, drugs, alcohol, or drug paraphernalia.
25)  Marijuana is still prohibited.
26)  Don't carry anyone else's prescriptions or medications.
27)  All prescription or non-prescription medications (even cough drops) must be okayed by the school office, and if you want to carry them, the school must okay this.  No sharing your medications.

Bullying

28)  Report bullying to your parent and to the office in written/online form so there is a record. 

Basics/Attendance

29)  Use basic manners and common sense at school- if it feels its wrong, maybe it is.
30)  A day off of school for a vacation or personal reasons (other than religious, funeral, medical  or other legitimate excused), will be an unexcused absence.  If you will go out of town for a vacation during school time, get advanced approval of a short term independent study contract so there are no truancy issues.

And last but not least, have a plan if your child gets called into the office on what they need to do, how they can get a hold of you (the parent) when the office won't let them call you - e.g. texting you- and what they should say or not say at the office.   

This does not cover all possibilities, but it should be enough to get a productive conversation started.

Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 
717 K Street, Suite 228 
Sacramento, CA 95814 
Phone: 916-444-9064 
Email:help@edlaw4students.com 
Fax: 916-444-1209
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

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By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), which governs all high school sports, has yet again changed the time a student must sit out of a sport [Sit Out Period (SOP)] when transferring for the first time without a family move.  This rule should apply until August 2019 when they may or may not change it again.

CIF is a problem child for many California high schoolers, as they can be very strict and can stop a student's ability to participate in varsity level sports, often without all the facts.  One common issue is when a student transfers schools their first time, but their family does not move.  If this student does not transfer based on a discipline matter and have not transferred in high school before (ensuring they generally won't play for a year), they will face a limited varsity SOP at the new school for any sport where they participated at their former school.  

Previously, CIF had specific sit out dates for various sports.  However, as of today, CIF has implemented a 50% (plus one day if the season days is an odd number of days) sit out rule.  The amended rule, in bylaw 207 B(5)b(ix) states in part:

The Sit-Out Period will be 50% of the total number days in that particular season of sport. The number of days in a season is determined by each Section in accordance with their first allowable competition date through the final regular season competition date. If total number of days in a season is an odd number, then the Sit Out Period would be 50% plus one additional day. 

This means if a season went 120 days, the student could not participate for 60 of the 120 days. If it was 121 days, the student would sit out 61 days.

Additionally, if a student played in the same sport at the prior school during the same school year they transferred, they would not be able to play at all that year.  Other various rules apply as well.

CIF is the bane of many parents lives, and will usually strictly apply rules with few options for appealing SOPs imposed except under certain limited bases.  Parents beware when moving your sports-playing students.

Best,




Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 
717 K Street, Suite 228 
Sacramento, CA 95814 
Phone: 916-444-9064 
Email:help@edlaw4students.com 
Fax: 916-444-1209
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.
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By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Life may seem rosy for most California public school kids as they can attend school and are there for most of the material, homework, tests and other school activities.  However, if you find your child is missing a lot of school due to a long term illness and attendance is becoming an issue, completion of a "Chronic Illness Verification  Form" may help protect your child, as well as you, from truancy and other issues.

Truancy laws in California can be very heavy handed and allow punishment for a student with 3 unexcused absences and/or who misses more than 30 minutes in a day without valid excuse (Ed §48260).  Although most schools allow students to miss 3 days without a doctor's note, and only parent verification of illness, the fourth day means a mandated visit to a doctor just to get a note.  If the parent does not get this note for that day and days following, the student may be stuck with an unexcused absence.  Three of these unexcused sick days (days beyond what the school allows a parent to excuse) without a doctor's note may may mean the student is labelled a "truant."  

What happens if the child has an illness which keeps them out for a week at a time, and a doctor visit won't alter this (as it is a chronic condition such as cancer, heart condition, debilitating stomach or pain issues, etc.)?  The parent is still forced to drag their child to a waiting room to see a medical person, and must incur a bill for the office visit just to confirm the child is ill and receives an excused absence.  This is even the case  if the parent already knows their child is sick from illness, but must just stay out a fourth, fifth, etc. day of school in a row prior to being able to return to school.

Schools may not tell parents, but when a student has issues where they physically cannot attend school frequently, which are medically documented, the parent has options other than dragging their child to the doctor on the fourth day of any absence.  These options are not always communicated to families by schools.  

One great option for parents is to have their doctor complete a "Chronic Illness Verification Form,"  (link to form which opens a Word document). This form gives the parent the ability to excuse their child beyond the 3 days the schools normally allow.  The preface in the form states:

"The Chronic Illness Form allows parents to excuse absences due to a specific medical condition with the same authority as a medical professional." 

It may be best to ask for the school's form as a first step, but a parent does not have to wait to get this form from their school.  Rather, parents can take this form directly to their child's doctor.   

Once this form is completed by the medical professional, it is returned to the school, which may verify the form came from the physician.  Thereafter, the parent may excuse their child for medical reasons for an extended time period without having to go to the doctor.  Work missed should be able to be made up and truancy issues will hopefully not be pursued (fingers crossed as some districts try to pursue truancy for "excessive excused" absences).

Other options for help with this type of situation are Home Hospital Instruction (HHI), as well as setting up a Section 504 Plan, or even an IEP (Individualized Education Program).  However, while those may be pending or even not pursued by the parent, this form can help a parent deal with a student who just cannot go to school due to their illness.  It allows an already stressed parent to breathe a large sigh of relief that even though their child is very ill, at least a doctor's visit is not needed every fourth day to avoid truancy at school.    

Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 
717 K Street, Suite 228 
Sacramento, CA 95814 
Phone: 916-444-9064 
Email:help@edlaw4students.com 
Fax: 916-444-1209
[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.
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