Across the United States, schools are kicking children out for alleged misbehavior at higher rates than ever before. This form of punishment is formally known as disciplinary exclusion. Disciplinary exclusion can change a child’s life. Almost immediately, the punishment impacts a student’s reputation among her peers, ability to secure a job, and access to higher education. Many studies suggest that in the long term, disciplinary exclusion increases a student’s risk of ending up incarcerated as an adult. The serious consequences of exclusion from school warrant fierce protection of students’ due process rights in their school disciplinary hearings.
This Comment suggests ways in which students may—and should—enjoy greater legal protection in public school disciplinary hearings. Specifically, this Comment is written with an eye toward reforming Chapter 12 of the Pennsylvania Administrative Code. The Overview gives the reader a comprehensive understanding of the moving parts behind school discipline law. It also provides a survey of the current landscape of school discipline nationally and in Pennsylvania. In light of observed shortcomings in the execution of disciplinary hearings and recognized harms resulting from disciplinary exclusion, this Comment argues students should be afforded greater legal protections in school disciplinary hearings.