Expulsion from School

Topic Menu

Discretion to Discipline

A school can suspend or expel any student from school for a gross misdemeanor or persistent disobedience. Some dangerous behavior might count as gross misdemeanors. Persistent disobedience could be constant disruptions in class that do not improve after other school responses. School administrators must decide whether suspension or expulsion is in the best interest of the school, not the student. Administrators have a lot of discretion (leeway) when deciding whether to suspend or expel a student.

If your child is being suspended or expelled, look at what type of rule the school is using to make its decision— is it a school code or a law? The type of rule used in school discipline can affect your child’s rights in the future. A violation of a “zero tolerance” law is very serious.

“Zero Tolerance” 

Any school in Michigan must expel a student who brings a firearm to school. A student who is expelled for bringing a firearm to school cannot go to any general school in the state. These students can only attend alternative schools or strict discipline academies, if accepted. However, students can apply to return to school. See “Reinstatement” below. To learn more about alternative schools, visit Michigan Department of Education, Alternative Schools.


Sometimes, Michigan laws do not give schools a lot of discretion (leeway) when deciding whether to expel a student. For example, any school in Michigan should expel a student who:

  • Brings a dangerous weapon to school

  • Commits arson (sets something on fire)

  • Commits criminal sexual conduct

  • Assaults a school employee on school grounds, or assaults another student (fighting) 

Before a school can suspend or expel a student for one of these things, there are certain factors it must consider. The school must consider each of these factors:

  • The student’s age

  • The student’s disciplinary history

  • Whether the student has a disability

  • The seriousness of the student’s behavior

  • Whether the student’s behavior threatened the safety of another student or staff member

  • Whether restorative practices will be used to address the student’s behavior

  • Whether a lesser punishment would properly address the student’s behavior

What is a Dangerous Weapon?

Examples of dangerous weapons include a firearm, dagger, switchblade, iron bar, brass knuckles, or a pocketknife with a blade three inches or longer.

However, a school should not automatically expel a student for using something that is not a “dangerous weapon.” Most small pocketknives with blades shorter than three inches are not dangerous weapons, so the school is not required to expel a student for having one. The school can still choose to expel a child in these cases if it serves the best interest of the school.

There are some cases where students who are caught with a dangerous weapon at school do not have to be expelled. Students caught with dangerous weapons should not be expelled if they can show:

  • The “weapon” was not meant to be used as a weapon

  • They did not know they had the weapon

  • They did not know the weapon was dangerous

  • School personnel or the police encouraged or allowed them to keep the weapon

The school board decides if one of these exceptions applies.

What is Fighting?

If a student tries to or does physically hurt another person on purpose, this is known as assault. If a student in grade 6 or above assaults another student, the school board must expel the student from the school district. Before expelling a student for assault, the school board has to consider certain factors. This expulsion can be for as long as 180 days. The school can choose to suspend them for fewer than 180 days. Unlike expulsions under zero tolerance laws, assaulting another student does not get the student expelled from all school districts in the state.


In some situations, an expelled student can ask to return to school. This is true for students expelled under “zero tolerance” laws or the mandatory rules in the School Code of Conduct. In those cases, the student may apply to go back to the same school or to a different school. This is called a Petition for Reinstatement. Typically, students punished for breaking “zero tolerance” laws must wait 180 days before filing a petition to ask for reinstatement.

The waiting period is different for students punished for breaking rules in the School Code of Conduct. A student who was in or below fifth grade when expelled must wait 60 school days before filing a petition. A student who was above fifth grade when expelled must wait 150 school days before filing one. The school must give parents a form for filing a petition. The school does not have to offer any other help. The petition must be filed at the school the student wants to attend.

The school board must make a committee to review the petition within 10 school days after the petition is filed. The review committee is made up of school board members, a teacher, an administrator, and a parent of another student in the district. The committee looks at:

  • The risk of harm to other students if the student returns to school

  • The risk of individual or school district liability

  • The age and maturity of the student

  • The student’s school record before they were expelled

  • The student’s attitude about the incident that caused the expulsion

  • The student’s behavior since the expulsion

  • The degree of cooperation by the student’s parents

Then, the committee will put their official opinion in writing. The opinion must be reviewed at the next regularly scheduled board meeting. The school board can either approve or reject the petition. The school board’s approval to reinstate a student can be conditional. The school may require the student and parents to agree in writing to specific conditions for returning. Examples of some possible conditions are signing a behavior contract, and attending anger management or counseling.