Suspension is the first step toward expulsion. School administrators must recommend expulsion for some offenses. The balance that school administrators must face in final expulsion from school is maintaining the safety of their school campus and denying the educational opportunity of the student being excluded. The risks for the student are those associated with violations of due process and bias that may enter the process, resulting in an unfair exclusion from school. The factors associated with how students arrive at the expulsion event may be framed as risk factors; that is, students who get expelled demonstrate risk in areas of ethnicity, disability, school maladjustment, lack of parent advocacy, and alienation from activities and people at school.
However, there are protections embedded within the school expulsion process. The final decision about school exclusion is a school board decision. The board may have the discretion to suspend the expulsion order and return the student to the district, perhaps to another school within the district. Furthermore, many states now require that alternative education be provided to students upon expulsion. Another positive influence on a district action to stop short of expulsion is the presence of an advocate in the student’s school, community, or family. These individuals might vouch for the overall character of the student, ensure that due process is being followed, or advocate for the continuity in current educational and therapeutic interventions. A student who has multiple positive factors in his or her school record (e.g., extramural activities, leadership roles, good grades) is less likely to receive the full expulsion consequence. Finally, special education services and support serve as a deterrent to school expulsion (i.e., beyond the initial recommendation), especially given the protections provided to special education students under federal law.
Continued examination of school expulsion data, as with office referral and suspension indices, is recommended in order to provide a check on who is being expelled and what outcomes befall students who are expelled. There is a dearth of information about outcomes for expelled students in the research literature to date.