Expulsion (academia)
Expulsion or exclusion refers to the permanent removal of a student from a school system or university for violating that institution's rules. Laws and procedures regarding expulsion vary between countries and states.

State sector

If a child has been expelled from two schools, then any state school is legally allowed to refuse admittance of that student. (Schools on special measures
Special measures
Special measures is a status applied by Ofsted and Estyn, the schools inspection agencies, to schools in England and Wales, respectively, when it considers that they fail to supply an acceptable level of education and appear to lack the leadership capacity necessary to secure improvements...

 may refuse to admit a student who has been expelled from only one school.) Therefore, a student who has been expelled from two schools might be totally removed from the state education system. As a result, it is rare for a pupil to be expelled (or permanently excluded) in the UK's state sector.

The exclusion of pupils is governed by the Education Act 2002
Education Act 2002
The Education Act 2002 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-Main provisions:The act significantly amended legislation relating to academies, publicly-funded schools operating outside of local government control and with a significant degree of autonomy areas such as wages and...


The Secretary of State's
Secretary of State for Education and Skills
The Secretary of State for Education is the chief minister of the Department for Education in the United Kingdom government. The position was re-established on 12 May 2010, held by Michael Gove....

 guidance states that exclusion is a serious step. Exclusion should be used only in response to serious breaches of a school's discipline
In its original sense, discipline is referred to systematic instruction given to disciples to train them as students in a craft or trade, or to follow a particular code of conduct or "order". Often, the phrase "to discipline" carries a negative connotation. This is because enforcement of order –...

 policy and only after a range of alternative strategies to resolve the pupil's disciplinary problems have been tried and proven to have failed; and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would be seriously detrimental to the education or welfare of other pupils and staff, or of the pupil himself or herself.

In practice, a student can usually be subject to permanent exclusion for a total of five disciplinary breaches, for which the student does not have to receive formal 'warnings'. Depending on his or her offense, a child can be excluded from the school system within any range of time after his or her misdeed. Though the teaching staff may recommend a pupil to be expelled, only the headteacher is legally empowered to exclude a student; he or she is not permitted to delegate that power to another person, but if he or she is ill or otherwise unable to perform his or her duties, another staff member may become the acting headteacher and inherit the power to expel students.

When excluding a student, the headteacher must inform the pupil's parents of the duration of the exclusion (whether it be temporary or permanent), reasons for exclusion, and the procedures which a parent may take to make an appeal
An appeal is a petition for review of a case that has been decided by a court of law. The petition is made to a higher court for the purpose of overturning the lower court's decision....

. The headteacher must also inform the Local Education Authority
Local Education Authority
A local education authority is a local authority in England and Wales that has responsibility for education within its jurisdiction...

 of the circumstances surrounding permanent exclusions, fixed-term exclusions exceeding five days, and exclusions which result in a student being unable to take a public examination.

Reasons for expulsion from UK schools

There may be occasions a headteacher may decide that it is proper to expel a pupil for a first or one-off offense. For a single case of one of the following, a pupil can be excluded permanently:
  • A serious act of violence, including actual or threatened violence against a staff member or another pupil.
  • Possession of a weapon.
  • A sexual offense, including sexual abuse
    Sexual abuse
    Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is the forcing of undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another. When that force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. The offender is referred to as a sexual abuser or molester...

     and assault
    Sexual assault
    Sexual assault is an assault of a sexual nature on another person, or any sexual act committed without consent. Although sexual assaults most frequently are by a man on a woman, it may involve any combination of two or more men, women and children....

  • A racially aggravated offense
    Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

  • A drug
    Psychoactive drug
    A psychoactive drug, psychopharmaceutical, or psychotropic is a chemical substance that crosses the blood–brain barrier and acts primarily upon the central nervous system where it affects brain function, resulting in changes in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior...

    , usually the supply of a controlled drug to other pupils. (Possession of a small amount of a 'soft drug' such as marijuana is not normally considered sufficient grounds for expulsion.)
  • Computer hacking
    Hacker (computer security)
    In computer security and everyday language, a hacker is someone who breaks into computers and computer networks. Hackers may be motivated by a multitude of reasons, including profit, protest, or because of the challenge...


If a student has a history of breaking other school rules, that, too, could result in expulsion. Some offenses which may lead to expulsion when repeated persistently include:
  • Defiance and rebellion against authority.
  • Bullying.
  • Truancy
    Truancy is any intentional unauthorized absence from compulsory schooling. The term typically describes absences caused by students of their own free will, and usually does not refer to legitimate "excused" absences, such as ones related to medical conditions...

  • Stealing, the second time it occurs.

Because many violent students rebel against school rules often, some headteachers may choose to expel a student who has performed an act of violence against another pupil for persistent defiance rather than violence in order to protect the victim from being assaulted again as revenge for the excluded student's expulsion. Some regard this "totting up" process of persistent defiance to be unfair, as the pupil will have often been punished once already for each act, and expulsion can be seen as a second punishment imposed after the matter had been settled.


The pupil and his or her parents can appeal to the school governors
School governors
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, school governors are members of a school's Governing Body. In state schools they have responsibility for raising school standards through their three key roles of setting strategic direction, ensuring accountability and acting as a critical friend...

 against the expulsion. If the appeal fails to reinstate the pupil, a further appeal can be made to an appeals board (which sits on the behalf of the Local Education Authority).
Appeals to the governors

The parents of an excluded pupil are entitled to appeal against expulsion or an exclusion exceeding five days to a panel of school governors acting as a court.

The panel, which consists of parents and staff and cannot include the headteacher, is not legally able to exclude a pupil or extend a term of exclusion, but it can:
  • convert a permanent exclusion to a fixed-term one,
  • reduce the length of a fixed-term exclusion, or
  • cancel an exclusion.

The appeal must occur no sooner than six days after and no more than 15 days after the exclusion begins. The panel considers oral, written, or physical evidence
Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion. Giving or procuring evidence is the process of using those things that are either presumed to be true, or were themselves proven via evidence, to demonstrate an assertion's truth...

 from the school detailing the case for expulsion, and from the parents of the excluded pupil. The pupil and his or her parents may argue that the excluded pupil was not responsible for the act for which her or she has been excluded, or that the punishment is disproportionate to the offense.
Appeal to the Local Education Authority

If the appeal to the governors is unsuccessful, an expelled or excluded student and his or her parents may go to an appeals board. This panel, which is appointed by the Local Education Authority, must be autonomous of the Authority, the school, and the parents of the excluded student.

The majority of the appeals that these panels hear are not against exclusions, but are for the admission of pupils into schools. Although the Local Education Authority are in theory obligated to provide education to a pupil under school-leaving age (Year 11 and below), in practice (usually when the pupil is denied access to other schools and/or the pupil referral unit) the Local Education Authority employs techniques such as appointing a single tutor for one lesson a week.

Independent sector

In the independent
Independent school (UK)
An independent school is a school that is not financed through the taxation system by local or national government and is instead funded by private sources, predominantly in the form of tuition charges, gifts and long-term charitable endowments, and so is not subject to the conditions imposed by...

 sector, a pupil can be ‘permanently excluded’ at the discretion of the Head, with the interests of the school taking precedence over the rights and interests of pupil and parent. This disregard for natural justice
Natural justice
Natural justice is a term of art that denotes specific procedural rights in the English legal system and the systems of other nations based on it. Whilst the term natural justice is often retained as a general concept, it has largely been replaced and extended by the more general "duty to act fairly"...

 was the basis of the play The Winslow Boy
The Winslow Boy
thumb|1st edition cover The Winslow Boy is an English play from 1946 by Terence Rattigan based on an actual incident in the Edwardian era, which took place at the Royal Naval College, Osborne.-Performance History:...

which brings into question a system that seeks to protect its reputation at the cost of truth in carrying out an expulsion. Currently, if the matter is not a disciplinary issue, a Head will refer to an expulsion as "a requirement to withdraw", and is "immediate and permanent".

Mass expulsions in the UK independent sector occurred with some frequency during the 1970s as headmasters struggled to control outbreaks of drugs usage. For example, pupils at Oundle School
Oundle School
Oundle School is a co-educational British public school located in the ancient market town of Oundle in Northamptonshire. The school has been maintained by the Worshipful Company of Grocers of the City of London since its foundation in 1556. Oundle has eight boys' houses, five girls' houses, a day...

 may recall the entire school being summoned to assembly one afternoon to hear the headmaster, Dr BMW Trapnell
Barry Trapnell
Barry Maurice Waller Trapnell, born 18 May 1924 in Hampstead, London, played first-class cricket for Cambridge University in 1946 and later in the same year for Middlesex CCC.As a batsman, he was right-handed, and as a bowler, he was right-arm medium pace....

, explain not only why he had to expel almost 10 boys for this offence, but also how none of these boys would subsequently be able to become chartered accountants. Bruce Dickinson
Bruce Dickinson
Paul Bruce Dickinson is an English singer, songwriter, airline pilot, fencer, broadcaster, author, screenwriter, actor and marketing director, best known as the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden....

 is another example of an Oundle pupil expelled by the same headmaster.

Distinction between expulsion and rustication

Whereas expulsion from a UK independent school means permanent removal from the school, 'rustication'
Rustication (academia)
Rustication is a term used at Oxbridge to mean being sent down or expelled temporarily. The term derives from the Latin word rus, countryside, to indicate that a student has been sent back to their family in the country, or from medieval Latin rustici, meaning "heathens or barbarians"...

 usually means removal from the school for the remainder of the current term.

United States

In the United States, Expulsion criteria and process vary from state to state, though it is very difficult for a student to be expelled from school, except in cases of violence or drug use on school property. Following the Columbine shooting event and many "zero-tolerance" policies, schools have become increasingly willing to expel students for minor offenses in certain categories. Depending on local school board jurisdiction, approval from that school's local school board may be required before a student can be expelled, as opposed to a suspension which may only require approval from the principal. Students are usually not expelled for academic violations such as plagiarism
Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as the "wrongful appropriation," "close imitation," or "purloining and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions," and the representation of them as one's own original work, but the notion remains problematic with nebulous...

 that would be punishable in college.

Reasons for expulsion from U.S. schools

Students may be withdrawn by their principals for a variety of reasons, those listed in one source include the following. Standards listed here are in accordance to California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 education standards.


  • Causing, attempting to cause, or threatening to cause a physical injury to another person
  • The use of force or violence against the person of another (except in self defense but even then one may be suspended)
  • Possessing, selling, or otherwise providing a firearm, knife, explosive or other dangerous object
  • Committing or attempting to commit robbery or extortion
  • Possessing an imitation firearm
  • Making terrorist threats against school officials or school property
  • Making crude weapons out of office supplies


  • Rape or some other sexual assault
    Sexual assault
    Sexual assault is an assault of a sexual nature on another person, or any sexual act committed without consent. Although sexual assaults most frequently are by a man on a woman, it may involve any combination of two or more men, women and children....

     or battery
    Battery (crime)
    Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the fear of such contact.In the United States, criminal battery, or simply battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact...

  • The commission of an obscene
    An obscenity is any statement or act which strongly offends the prevalent morality of the time, is a profanity, or is otherwise taboo, indecent, abhorrent, or disgusting, or is especially inauspicious...

     act or engaging in habitual profanity
    Profanity is a show of disrespect, or a desecration or debasement of someone or something. Profanity can take the form of words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, obscene, desecrating, or other forms.The...

     or vulgarity
    Vulgarity is the quality of being common, coarse or unrefined. This judgement may refer to language, visual art, social classes or social climbers...

  • Severe sexual harassment
    Sexual harassment
    Sexual harassment, is intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. In some contexts or circumstances, sexual harassment is illegal. It includes a range of behavior from seemingly mild transgressions and...

     (sex crimes) or general harassment
    Harassment covers a wide range of behaviors of an offensive nature. It is commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset, and it is characteristically repetitive. In the legal sense, it is intentional behaviour which is found threatening or disturbing...

     (grades 5-12)


  • Drug use, possession, supply on campus. This includes offering, arranging or negotiating to sell. This includes tobacco
    Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

    , alcohol
    In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

    , narcotics, cocaine
    Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant. The name comes from "coca" in addition to the alkaloid suffix -ine, forming cocaine. It is a stimulant of the central nervous system, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic...

    , marijuana, and betel
    The Betel is the leaf of a vine belonging to the Piperaceae family, which includes pepper and Kava. It is valued both as a mild stimulant and for its medicinal properties...

  • Offering of drugs, even legal non-perscription to other students.

Hate crimes

Causing, attempting to cause, threatening to cause, or participating in an act of hate violence.


  • Vandalism of either school or private property.
  • Stealing either school or private property.
  • Knowingly receiving stolen property.

Acts which are prejudicial to good order at the school

  • Harassing, threatening, or intimidating a pupil who is either a complaining witness or other witness in a school disciplinary case, or making a retaliation against a person for being a witness in a school disciplinary case.
  • Hazing
    Hazing is a term used to describe various ritual and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group....

Failure to attend

This has been cited by some as something which can result in expulsion. While it is not mentioned explicitly it does come under defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers or other members of staff. Students are often expelled from school for truancy
Truancy is any intentional unauthorized absence from compulsory schooling. The term typically describes absences caused by students of their own free will, and usually does not refer to legitimate "excused" absences, such as ones related to medical conditions...

. In the United States, students under 18 (most states) are considered truants if they do not regularly attend school and can result in charges against the parents. Students without disabilities that are under 18 who are expelled have the option to attend alternative schools. Students with disabilities who are expelled are required to have home instruction provided for them. Students without disabilities that over 18 have the option to go to alternative schools but do not have to be enrolled in school by most state laws.

Persistent rebellion

  • Excessive rule infractions. Constantly breaking the rules will eventually result in being removed from school. This again is a case of defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers or other members of staff.

Returning to school after involuntary withdrawals

Depending on the reason, some students do have a chance of re-entering the school system after being expelled. Sometimes the student is even able to return to the school that they were withdrawn from. However, if the offense that causes expulsion is highly threatening to others, then the student may not be allowed to go on the grounds of their former school. If the person does, s/he risks being arrested and legal action against the person.

New Zealand

Expulsion and exclusion are both terms for removing a student from a school for misconduct. The difference is students under 16 years of age are excluded and those 16 or over are expelled, but both are commonly referred to as expulsion. For any student that is excluded, because they are under the minimum school leaving age
School leaving age
The school leaving age states the minimum age person is legally allowed to leave compulsory education...

, the excluding school is required to find an alternative school for the student to attend, or reinstate the student if another school cannot be found. For students that are expelled, the expelling school is not required to find an alternative school, as the student is over the minimum school leaving age.

Exclusion/expulsion cannot be directly done by the principal. It must be done through suspending the student, and requiring the school's board of trustees, or a standing disciplinary committee of the board, to independently assess whether or not the situation is serious enough to justify exclusion or expulsion of the student.

See also

  • Rustication (academia)
    Rustication (academia)
    Rustication is a term used at Oxbridge to mean being sent down or expelled temporarily. The term derives from the Latin word rus, countryside, to indicate that a student has been sent back to their family in the country, or from medieval Latin rustici, meaning "heathens or barbarians"...

  • Dishonorable discharge
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