Illinois School Discipline and Expulsion: What are the legal rights of students?

Understanding Student Rights in Illinois School Disciplinary Actions

In the state of Illinois, maintaining a safe and productive school environment is paramount. However, when disciplinary measures lead to the possibility of expulsion, it's essential that students and their guardians understand the legal rights afforded to them under the law.

The School Discipline Process

Schools in Illinois are governed by a set of rules and policies that establish expectations for student conduct. When these expectations are not met, disciplinary actions, including suspension or expulsion, may be initiated. Before any severe disciplinary action is taken, students typically go through a step-by-step process where they are informed of the alleged misconduct and given an opportunity to respond.

Due Process Rights

Under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, students are entitled to due process rights. This includes the right to be notified of charges against them, the right to a fair hearing before an impartial party, and the opportunity to present their side of the story before any decision regarding expulsion is made.

Expulsion Hearings

When a student faces expulsion, they have the right to a hearing within a specified time frame. During this hearing, they can be represented by a lawyer, present evidence, call witnesses in their defense, and cross-examine any witnesses against them. Following the hearing, if a decision for expulsion is upheld, there are options for appeal within the school system and potentially through the courts.

Special Education Considerations

Students with disabilities who are protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) have additional rights when it comes to discipline. Schools must conduct a manifestation determination review to decide whether the student’s behavior was a manifestation of their disability. If so, disciplinary actions may be adjusted accordingly.

Historical Reference

An example of these principles in action can be found in Honig v. Doe, a landmark 1988 case where the Supreme Court held that students with disabilities cannot be excluded from school for behaviors related to their disabilities without due process.

Bullying and Harassment Policies

Illinois schools have specific policies regarding bullying and harassment. Students facing disciplinary action as a result of being accused of such behaviors should understand these policies as they may affect the proceedings.


Navigating school discipline and potential expulsion can be challenging for students and parents alike. Knowing one’s legal rights is essential in ensuring that students are treated fairly throughout this process. When facing disciplinary actions that could lead to expulsion, it is often advisable to consult with an attorney who specializes in education law.