We didn’t expel him. We “disenrolled” him.

Charter schools get away with things.  They do things that traditional schools cannot do.  A recent decision from a California Administrative Law Judge provides an example. 

The Empire Springs Charter School “disenrolled” a student because his parents breached their contract with the school.  That contract required that the student would participate in the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress.  Parents were allowed to opt out of that, but in that case the student would still be required to undergo testing through “an alternative Common Core grade-level exam.” 

The parents did not present the boy for testing. The district then informed the parents that the student could no longer attend the school.    

The parents appealed to the state agency and got a hearing conducted by an Administrative Law Judge.  The ALJ held that this was not an “expulsion.”  It was the consequence of a breach of contract.  That’s an example of a charter school doing something that the traditional school could never do. 

There are two legal principles that come into play. First, in the traditional schools the courts have never been OK with a punishment of a student based on the behavior of the parent.  This certainly looks like a punishment of the student.  You can call it a “disenrollment” if you want, but it sure looks like an expulsion.   You have a student who is told he can no longer attend the school he has attended for several years. Why? Because of his parents.  If the traditional school pulled that stunt the outcry would be loud and wide.

Secondly, the ALJ treats the parent-school relationship as a contractual one.   Thus the school is empowered to impose requirements on the parent that can be enforced by kicking the child out of the school.  That would never fly in the traditional school.   Traditional schools don’t have contracts with parents—they have a constitutional obligation to serve their children.

It’s understandable that the Empire Springs Charter School wants to have some leverage to make sure that all kids show up for testing day.  Traditional schools would like to have some leverage also.  But it’s not fair that the Charter School has leverage that is not available to the traditional school.  We were told that charters would provide competition to the traditional school that would spur innovation and improvement.  That sounds good, but we’d like to see the competition on a level playing field.

The case is Empire Springs Charter School, decided by an ALJ acting for the California State Educational Agency on July 19, 2019.   The Dawg found it at Special Ed Connection, 119 LRP 32343.   


See you next week, Loyal Readers!