School disciplinary hearings: Know your rights

Over the last several months, Legal Aid Ontario has been talking to people in the community about issues related to its Racialized Communities Strategy. Through it all, we have heard one concern raised again and again by community members, community agencies and staff at community legal clinics: more needs to be done to support children in conflict with the education system.

The available data supports this concern:

Here is some information to help you understand what your school can suspend or expel you for and what you can do if it happens to you.

What can I be suspended or expelled for?

Your school can suspend or expel you for doing any of the following on school property, while doing a school-related activity, or if your actions will hurt the school.

Reasons for suspension Reasons for expulsion
  • uttering a threat to inflict serious bodily harm on another person
  • possessing or being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs
  • swearing at a teacher or other person in a position of authority
  • committing an act of causing extensive damage to school property or to property on school grounds
  • bullying, including cyber-bullying
  • any other activities identified in school board policy
  • possessing or using a weapon to cause or threaten bodily harm
  • physically/sexually assaulting another person
  • dealing in weapons or illegal drugs
  • stealing
  • repeated bullying
  • any activity for which you can be suspended that is motivated by bias, prejudice or hate
  • any other activities identified in school board policy

What are my rights?

At both suspension and expulsion hearings before a committee of at least three school board trustees, you have a right to:

  • have a lawyer represent you,
  • call witnesses and present your side of the story,
  • cross-examine witnesses, and
  • explain if there are other things that the board needs to consider.

School board trustees will then decide to:

Suspensions Expulsions
  • keep your suspension as is; or
  • change the type and length of your suspension; or
  • end the suspension, remove it from your record, and send you back to school.
  • confirm, shorten or remove your 20-day suspension pending expulsion;
  • expel you from your school only; or
  • expel you from all the school board’s schools; or
  • not expel you and let you return to school.

What is Legal Aid Ontario doing to help?

Legal Aid Ontario is providing funding to two projects that will be run by three organizations to help Black students facing suspension or expulsion hearings. We will also continue to work with communities to find other ways to help break the ‘school-to-prison-pipeline’ cycle.