Student May Be Transferred To Continuation High School Following Hearing Without Exhausting All Other Means Of Correction

In Nathan G. v. Clovis Unified School District, the California Court of Appeal recently held that a school district can involuntarily transfer a student to continuation high school, without having to exhaust all other means of correction. Education Code section 48432.5 states in pertinent part:

“A decision to transfer the pupil involuntarily shall be based on a finding that the pupil … committed an act enumerated in Section 48900 … . Involuntary transfer to a continuation school shall be imposed only when other means fail to bring about pupil improvement. …”

The court found that the foregoing wording does not require exhausting all other means of correction. Section 48432.5 does require a hearing on request of the student or their parent or guardian prior to an involuntary transfer, which can be in the form of a meeting with the superintendent’s designee.

In an important legal determination, the court also found that, in contrast to a suspension or expulsion, an involuntary transfer does not deny access to public education and does not affect a “fundamental vested right.” Therefore, courts should review whether the administrative findings are supported by the evidence under the “substantial evidence” test, which is more deferential to school districts than the “independent judgment” test. The court concluded that a great deal of deference should be given to an administrator’s decision to discipline a student:

“‘[T]he ‘primary duty of school officials and teachers … is the education and training of young people. A State has a compelling interest in assuring that the schools meet this responsibility. Without first establishing discipline and maintaining order, teachers cannot begin to educate their students. …’ At school, events calling for discipline are frequent occurrences and sometimes require ‘immediate, effective action.’ … To respond in an appropriate manner, ‘“teachers and school administrators must have broad supervisory and disciplinary powers.”’ … (In re Randy G. (2001) 26 Cal.4th 556, 562, 563; see also Reeves v. Rocklin Unified School Dist. (2003) 109 Cal.App.4th 652, 664-665 [“’[D]aily administration of public education is committed to school officials and … such responsibility carries with it the inherent authority to prescribe and control conduct in the schools. The interest of the state in the maintenance of its education system is a compelling one … .’”]

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