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Expulsion or exclusion at a school or university is defined as removing a student from the institution for violating rules.

Expulsion in the UK

State sector

The rules associated with the exclusion

If a child has been expelled from two schools then a state school is legally permitted to refuse to admit a pupil (even if they have a space for the child); in the case of a school which is on special measures then a child who has been expelled from one school may be treated in this way. Because of these rules if a child is expelled from a school then it can result in them being removed totally from the state education system. As a result of this fact the vast majority of headteachers and school governors do not view expulsion lightly.

As a result in the state sector in the UKmarker it is rare for a pupil to be expelled (permanent exclusion is the current term for expulsion). In the UK system the exclusion of pupils is governed by the Education Act 2002, for an overview of the topic please see chapter 12 of A Guide to the Law for School Governors (Community Schools edition, ISBN 1844781216, DfES reference GTTLC2004, crown copyright 2004 or the later edition ISBN 1844785432, DfES reference DFES-0227-2005, crown copyright 2006), The above act states:

the Secretary of State's guidance states that exclusion is a serious step.
Exclusion, should be used only in response to serious breaches of a school's discipline 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.

The most recent guidance to schools (Improving behaviour and attendance: guidance on exclusion from schools and pupil referral units: DfES/0087/2003) states that there may be occasions where in a headteacher's judgement it is correct to expel a pupil for a first or one off offence. These include

In practise a pupil can be subject to permanent exclusion for a total of five outrages against good order at the school. The pupils do not have to receive formal 'warnings' as such. Depending on what a child has done they can be excluded from the school within a matter of minutes or hours of their misdeed. The teaching staff at a school can recommend the expulsion of a pupil but only the headteacher is legally empowered to expel a pupil, the head teacher is not permitted to delegate that power to another person, if the headteacher is ill or otherwise unable to perform their duties then another member of staff may take on the duties of the headteacher and become a acting headteacher.

Reasons for expulsion from UK Schools

For a single case of one of the following a pupil can be excluded permanently

  • A serious act of violence, for example bringing a knife to school and stabbing a pupil or member of staff.
  • A drug offense, for example the supply of a controlled drug to other pupils. A small amount of a 'soft drug' (such as one joint) is not normally considered as sufficient grounds for expulsion.
  • A sexual offense, for example if one pupil rapes another pupil.
  • A racially aggravated offense, for example if one pupil punches another pupil (of a different race) while shouting some racial slur.

Rather than a single outrage a long and dire history of breaking school rules can result in expulsion.

  • Persistent defiance. Also a pupil can be expelled for a persistent rebellion against the school rules. This is where the pupil has done many bad things which when taken on their own are not serious, but when taken together are a serious matter.

Some headteachers are aware that if they expel a pupil for an act of violence against another pupil that the expelled pupil may at a later time assault the victim a second time as a retaliation for being expelled. To guard against this event one method is to expel the violent pupil not for violence but for Persistent defiance against the school rules as the majority of violent pupils are also often rebelling against the school rules.

Some persons have considered that the use of the totting up process of the Persistent defiance to be unreasonable as often the pupil will have already been punished once already for each act and that the expulsion amounts to a second punishment imposed after the matter had been settled by the first punishment.

Actions required of the headteacher at the time of the expulsion

The headteacher must inform the parents of the following facts.

  • The period of the exclusion (or that it is permanent)
  • The reasons for the exclusion
  • The fact that the parent can make an appeal
  • How the appeal can be made.

In the following cases the headteacher must inform the Local Education Authority of the facts in cases of

  • Permanent exclusions
  • Fixed term exclusions of more than five days (or ten lunchtimes) in one term
  • Exclusions which result in the loss of the opportunity to take a public examination.


The pupil and/or their parents can appeal to the governors against the expulsion, if this appeal to the governors fails to reinstate the pupil then a further appeal can be made to an appeals board (which sits on the behalf of the Local Education Authority).

Appeals to the governors
In the UK system the parents of the excluded pupil are entitled to appeal against the exclusion to the school governors. In addition to the appeals against permanent exclusions the parents can appeal against a fixed-term exclusion which is more than a length of time set down in law (five days). A panel of the governors are required to hear the case and act as a court, the pupil and the parent can appeal against the exclusion either adjudging that the excluded pupil was not responsible for the act for which they are being excluded for or that the punishment is disproportionate. The panel are not legally able to exclude a pupil or to extend a term of exclusion, the panel can however reduce the length of an exclusion, convert a permanent one to a fixed term one or reverse the exclusion totally.

The panel of school governors (parent and staff governors which cannot include the headteacher) must meet no sooner than six days after the exclusion and no more than 15 days after the exclusion, this panel will hear evidence from the school which details the case for expulsion, the parents of the pupil whose future is being considered may also present evidence. The evidence can be oral evidence, written evidence or even physical evidence. For example if a pupil is accused of destroying a door, then the smashed door could be shown to the panel.

Appeal to the local education authority
If the appeal to the governors does not result in the pupil being allowed back into the school, then a new appeal to a panel of persons appointed by the local education authority can occur. 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 obliged 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 employ techniques such as appointing a single tutor for one lesson a week.

Independent sector

However in the independent school sector, a pupil can be ‘permanently excluded’ at the discretion of the Head, with the interest of the school taking precedence over the rights and interests of pupil and parent. This disregard for natural justice was the basis of the play "The Winslow Boy" 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”.[211699]

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 Schoolmarker may recall the entire school being summoned to assembly one afternoon to hear the headmaster, Dr BMW Trapnell, 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 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' usually means removal from the school for the remainder of the current term.

Expulsion in the United States

In the United States, students have found that they may be expelled, or involuntarily withdrawn, from their schools for many reasons. With public school safety becoming a major concern in modern day schools, it is much easier to be thrown out of public schools now than it was years ago. 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 that would be so punishable in college.

Reasons for expulsion from U.S. schools

Students will 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 Californiamarker 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



Hate crimes

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

Other acts which are not explicitly mentioned


  • 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

  • Disrupting school activities, or otherwise defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers or other members of staff.
  • 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

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. In the United Statesmarker, students under 18 (most states) are considered truants if they do not regularly attend school and can result in charges against the parents. Students under 18 who are expelled are usually sent to alternative schools. Students over 18 can 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, he/she does risk being arrested and legal action against the person.

Expulsion and exclusion in New Zealand

Expulsion and exclusion are both terms for removing a student from a school for their behaviour. The difference is exclusion is given to students under 16 years of age, and expulsion is given to students 16 or over, but both are commonly referred to as expulsion. For any student that is excluded, as they are under the minimum school leaving age, the excluding school is required to find an alternative school for the student to attend. 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 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 the situation is serious enough to justify an exclusion or expulsion.


See also

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