Click on a heading to expand or collapse that heading’s content.

To download this information as a PDF

Please click here.

Who has the overall discipline authority in schools?

Local School Boards/Districts – Write policies that principles must follow/

Principals – Must Maintain good discipline in schools.

California requires that “[a]ll students . . . comply with the regulations, pursue the required course of study, and submit to the authority of the teachers of the schools.”  Cal. Educ. Code § 48908.

Students are required to follow the authority of teachers and school regulations.

In addition to the fundamental right to an education, children also have “the right to an effective public school education,” which includes the constitutional right to be safe and secure while at school.  Cal. Educ. Code § 35183; see also Cal. Const. art. I, § 28(a)(7).    School districts write statutes and implement regulations which help ensure that students remain safe and secure in schools and receive an effective education.

In California, it is the principal’s responsibility to maintain good discipline in the school.

Under what circumstances can a student be suspended or expelled?

California state law gives the superintendent or school principal authority to suspend or expel a student for any of the violations listed within sections 48900, 48900.2, 48900.3, 48900.4, and 48900.7 of the California Education Code:

Causing, attempting to cause, or threatening to cause physical injury



Alcohol/Intoxicants/Controlled Substances

Substance in Lieu of Alcohol/Intoxicants/Controlled Substances

Drug Paraphernalia

Tobacco or Nicotine Products

Robbery and Extortion

Property Damage

Property Theft

Obscenity or Habitual Profanity/Vulgarity

Disruption or Defiance

Sexual Harassment

Hate Violence

Threats and Intimidation




Terroristic Threats

Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900.5, 48915.

Suspension and expulsion should be used only as a last resort when other means of correcting behavior have not brought about proper conduct.

In what ways may a child be suspended?

In School Suspension (ISS) by the Teacher:  “A teacher may suspend any student from class, for any of the acts listed in Section 48900, for the day of the suspension and the day following.”  Cal. Educ. Code § 48910(a).  If a teacher places the student in ISS, the teacher must immediately report the suspension to the principal and send the student to the principal for appropriate action.  The teacher must also consult with the principal regarding a “due process” conference.  This conference includes several steps:

  • Parent-Teacher Conference: The teacher, principal, or principal’s designee must ask the student’s parent or guardian to attend a parent-teacher conference about the suspension.  Whenever possible, a school counselor or school psychologist may attend the conference.  At the request of either the teacher or parent/guardian, the principal shall also attend the conference.  Educ. Code § 48910(a).
  • Removal from Classroom: During the suspension, the suspended student cannot return to class without the teacher or principal’s permission.  The student will not be placed in another regular class during this suspension period.  The principal or principal’s designee will plan for the completion and distribution of regular suspension forms as necessary.  Educ. Code § 48910(a)-(b).
  • Teacher Referral for Suspension: In addition to placing the student in ISS, a teacher may also refer a student for a formal suspension.  Educ. Code § 48910(c).

Formal or Out of School Suspension:  The principal, the principal’s designee, and the district superintendent of schools have the authority to discipline a student with formal, or out of school, suspension.  In these cases, the student may be suspended from school for a maximum of 5 consecutive school days for any single action that a district considers to be a reason for suspension pursuant to California state law.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48911.

  • Students involved in the formal suspension process must be provided due process. Educ. Code §§ 48900 et seq.
  • A student may not be suspended from school for more than 20 school days in any school year. If the student transfers schools, the student may not be suspended from school for more than 30 school days in any school year. Any suspensions by the student while enrolled in another school district may be counted toward his/her total number of suspensions for that school year.  Educ. Code § 48903.

What is the process for formal suspension?

Referral:  A teacher or other school employee refers the student to the principal, the principal’s designee, or the district superintendent for formal suspension.

Required Informal Conference:  The principal, the principal’s designee, or the district superintendent of schools must first hold an informal conference with the student, and whenever possible, the school employee who referred the student for formal suspension.  At this conference, which can be conducted in person at the school or over the phone, the principal, the principal’s designee, or the district superintendent of schools informs the student of the reason for the suspension and the evidence leading to the suspension.  The principal must give the student an opportunity to present his or her own evidence in defense.

Suspension without an Informal Conference:  The school may formally suspend a student without the informal conference only if it is determined that an emergency situation exists. This can occur if the principal decides that the situation creates a clear and present danger to the lives, safety, or health of students or staff.  If a student is suspended without an informal conference, both the student and the parent/guardian must be notified of the student’s right to a conference and the student’s right to return to school for the conference.

Timing of Informal Conference in Emergency Situations:  The school is required to then hold the informal conference within 2 school days, unless the student waives his/her right to the informal conference or is physically unable to attend, in which case the school must hold the informal conference as soon as the student is physically able to return to school for the conference.

Police Notification and Investigation:  If a student is recommended for suspension for any reason that requires police notification, the school may contact the police, and a school police officer may be allowed to investigate the situation and possibly detain the student.

Hearing Results in Student’s Favor:  If, after hearing the student’s version of events and examining any evidence which is presented, the principal determines a suspension is not required, the student shall either return to his/her regular placement or be referred to an alternative program.

Assignment Completion During Suspension:  If the principal determines that a suspension is required, the student’s teacher(s) may require that the student complete assignments during the suspension period.  Additionally, the parent or guardian may request class assignments and tests during the suspension period.

Parental Notification: The school should make reasonable efforts to contact the student’s parent or guardian by phone at the time of the suspension. If the student is suspended from school, the parent shall be notified in writing.

Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48902, 48906, 48911(c), (d), 48913.

What are the consequences if a parent/guardian fails to attend the conference?

A student shall not be punished because his/her parent/guardian did not attend a conference with school officials.  Reinstatement of the student does not depend upon his/her parent/guardian attending the conference.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48911(f).

What other obligations does the school have during a suspension?

The school must update the student’s disciplinary history to reflect the suspension.

In addition to updating the student’s discipline history, the school shall make a reasonable effort to contact the student’s parent/guardian in person or by phone at the time of the suspension and must also mail a “Report on Suspension” notice to the parent or guardian.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900.8, 48911.

What does the “Report on Suspension” notice include?

A statement of facts leading to the decision to suspend the student;

The date and time when the student can return to school;

Information about the rights of the student or parent/guardian to request an appeal of the suspension;

Information about the rights of parents/guardians to have access to the student’s records;

A request that the parent/guardian meet with school officials on or before the 3rd consecutive day of the suspension, at which time all matters related to the suspension are discussed; and

A notice that state law requires parents/guardians to respond to these requests without delay.

Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900.8, 48911.

In School Suspension (ISS) by the Principal:  A student who is suspended “may be assigned, by the principal or the principal’s designee, to a supervised suspension classroom for the entire period of suspension if the student poses no imminent danger or threat to the campus, other students, or staff, or if an action to expel the student has not been initiated.”  Cal. Educ. Code § 48911.1(a).

  • Students in ISS shall be separated from other students at the school during the suspension period.
  • Students are responsible for contacting their teachers to receive assignments, and the teacher shall provide all assignments and tests that the student will miss during the suspension period. If no work is assigned, the ISS supervisor shall assign schoolwork.
  • When a student is assigned to ISS, the school shall notify his/her parent/guardian in person or by phone, and if the suspension period lasts longer than 1 class period, the school shall also notify the student’s parent/guardian in writing.

Cal. Educ. Code § 48911.1.

What is the process for expelling a student?

The governing board of each school district shall establish rules and regulations governing procedures for the expulsion of students.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48918.

Expulsion Hearing:  Each student is entitled to an expulsion hearing to be held within 30 school days after the date the principal or the superintendent of schools determines that the student has committed any of the acts listed in Section 48900 of the California Education Code.  The student may request, in writing, one expulsion hearing postponement of less than 30 calendar days.  Any additional postponement may be granted at the discretion of the governing board of the school district.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48918(a)(1).

Evidence:  A decision to expel must be supported by substantial evidence that the student committed the offense and may only be based upon evidence presented at the hearing.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48918(f) & (h).

Rehabilitation Plan:  The governing board is required to recommend a rehabilitation plan for a student at the time of the expulsion order.  The rehabilitation plan should include a periodic review plan and assessment plan for the period of readmission.  The plan may also include recommendations for improved academic performance, tutoring, special education assessments, job training, counseling, employment, community service, or other rehabilitative programs.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48916(b).

Timeline for Decision:  Within 10 school days after the conclusion of a hearing by the governing board, the governing board shall decide whether to expel the student, unless the student requests in writing a decision postponement.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48918(a)(2).  If the hearing is held by a hearing officer or an administrative panel, or if the district governing board does not meet on a weekly basis, the governing board shall decide whether to expel the student within 40 school days after the date of the student’s removal from school for the incident for which the recommendation for expulsion was made, unless the student requests, in writing, that the decision be postponed.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48918(a)(2).

Governing Board’s Decision:  No matter how the expulsion hearing is conducted, the final action to expel must be taken by the governing board at a public meeting.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48918(j).

When is expulsion recommended and when is it required?

Mandatory Recommendation and Mandatory Expulsion:  The principal, principal’s designee, or superintendent of schools must immediately suspend a student and recommend the student’s expulsion to the governing board for the following offenses:

  • Possessing, selling, or furnishing a firearm;
  • Brandishing a knife;
  • Unlawfully selling a controlled substance; or
  • Sexual assault/battery.

Upon recommendation of the principal, principal’s designee, or superintendent of schools and a finding that any of the above offenses occurred, the governing board must expel the student.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48915(c).

Mandatory Recommendation and Non-Mandatory Expulsion:  Unless the principal, principal’s designee, or superintendent of schools finds that expulsion is inappropriate due to particular circumstances, s/he must recommend a student’s expulsion to the governing board for the following offenses:

  • Causing serious physical injury to another;
  • Possession of certain weapons;
  • Possession of certain controlled substances;
  • Robbery and extortion; or
  • Assault and battery of a school employee.

The governing board may order expulsion for these offenses upon the recommendation of the principal, superintendent of schools, hearing officer, or administrative panel if

  • other means of correction are not possible or have repeatedly failed to correct the behavior, and/or
  • due to the nature of the violation, the presence of the student causes a continuing danger to the physical safety of the student or others.

Cal. Educ. Code § 48915(a)-(b).

Non-Mandatory Recommendation and Non-Mandatory Expulsion:  Upon the recommendation of the principal, superintendent of schools, hearing officer, or administrative panel, the governing board may order expulsion for any other offenses for which a student may be suspended or expelled if

  • other means of correction are not possible or have repeatedly failed to correct the behavior, and/or
  • due to the nature of the violation, the presence of the student causes a continuing danger to the physical safety of the student or others.

Cal. Educ. Code § 48915(e).

What notice is the school required to provide?

The student and his/her parent or guardian must receive written notice of an expulsion hearing at least 10 days before the hearing. This notice must include the following information:

Date and place of hearing;

Facts and charges of the proposed expulsion;

A copy of the district disciplinary rules related to the alleged violation;

Explanation of the obligation to inform other school districts in which the student seeks to enroll of the student’s status;

Explanation of the right of the student or student’s parent or guardian to appear in person, or to obtain and be represented by an attorney;

Explanation of the right to inspect and obtain copies of all documents to be used at the hearing;

Explanation of the right to confront and question all witnesses who testify at the hearing and to question all other evidence presented; and

Explanation of the right to present evidence on the student’s behalf, including witnesses.

Cal. Educ. Code § 48918(b).


How can a student re-enter school after expulsion?

Expulsion Order:  An expulsion order remains in effect until the governing board orders readmission of the student.  At the time an expulsion is ordered, other than for mandatory expulsions, the student will be reviewed for readmission to the school or district by the governing board on a date no later than the last day of the semester of which the expulsion occurred.  If the expulsion is mandatory, the governing board must set a date 1 year from the date the expulsion occurred (but may set an earlier date on a case-by-case basis).  Cal. Educ. Code § 48916(a).

Readmission Process:  At the time of the governing board’s expulsion order, the student and the parent or guardian will receive a description of the governing board’s readmission process, including the process of required review for readmission.  After completion of the readmission process, the governing board will readmit the student unless the governing board determines that the student has not met the conditions of the rehabilitation plan or continues to pose a danger to others.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48916(a)-(c).

Denial of Readmission:  If the governing board denies readmission, it may either continue the student’s placement in the alternative educational program initially selected or place the student in another program that serves expelled students, including placement in a county community school.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48916.  The governing board must provide written notice to the expelled student and the parent/guardian describing why the student was denied readmission into the regular school district program, as well as the determination of the educational program for the expelled student.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48916(e).

Is corporal punishment permitted at schools?

Corporal punishment was outlawed in California in 1986.

“No person employed by or engaged in a public school shall inflict, or cause to be inflicted corporal punishment upon a student.  Every resolution, bylaw, rule, ordinance, or other act or authority permitting or authorizing the infliction of corporal punishment upon a student attending a public school is void and unenforceable.”  Cal. Educ. Code § 49001(b).

Are there dress code requirements for schools?

Use of Reasonable Dress Codes:  In California, a school district’s governing board may adopt policies that allow schools to implement reasonable dress codes, including dress codes that require students to wear school uniforms or prohibit gang-related clothing.  Cal. Educ. Code § 35183(b).

What is a reasonable dress code?  Under California law, the “adoption of a school wide uniform policy is a reasonable way to provide some protection for students,” therefore, the California legislature has provided that the “governing board of any school district may adopt or rescind a reasonable dress code policy that requires pupils to wear a school wide uniform.”  Cal. Educ. Code § 35183(a)-(b).

Physical Education and Extracurricular Activities:  Coaches and teachers may impose more strict dress requirements to accommodate the special needs of certain sports and/or classes.  However, a student’s physical education class grade may not be adversely affected if the student does not wear standardized physical education apparel because of circumstances beyond his/her control.  The principal, staff, students, parents, or guardians at each school may also establish reasonable dress and grooming regulations for extracurricular or other special school activities.  Cal. Educ. Code § 49066.

Protective Clothing:  Sun-protective clothing, including hats, must be allowed for outdoor use during the school day.  Cal. Educ. Code § 35183.5.

6 Months’ Notice Requirement:  A school wide dress code policy that requires students to wear a uniform shall not be implemented with less than 6 months’ notice to parents.  Cal. Educ. Code § 35183(d).

Resources for Economically Disadvantaged Students:  A school wide dress code policy that requires students to wear a uniform shall not be implemented without available resources to assist economically disadvantaged students.  For economically disadvantaged students who cannot afford a uniform, the school is required to provide resources to those students so they are able to comply with the policy.  Cal. Educ. Code § 35183(d).

Parental Choice:  If the parent or guardian opts out of the uniform requirements, the student may not be academically penalized, discriminated against, or denied attendance to school.  Cal. Educ. Code § 35183(f).

Organizational Participation:  In addition, the school dress code and/or uniform policy cannot preclude students who participate in a nationally recognized youth organization, such as the ROTC, from wearing organization uniforms on days that the organization has a scheduled meeting.  Cal. Educ. Code § 35183(g).

What does zero tolerance mean?

While the term zero tolerance does not appear in California state law, school districts can determine their own zero tolerance policies.  The offenses that require a principal or designee to suspend and recommend a student for expulsion who commits any of the following acts at school or at a school activity off school grounds:

  • possessing, selling, or otherwise furnishing a firearm,
  • brandishing a knife at another person,
  • selling a controlled substance,
  • committing or attempting to commit a sexual assault or sexual battery, or
  • possessing an explosive.

Cal. Educ. Code § 48915(c).

What behaviors require a suspension?

If a student’s behavior is a threat to the safety, health or emotional well-being of others, and previous methods of prevention and intervention have been unsuccessful, the student will be suspended.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900.5 et seq.  The school’s authority to take action will be determined based on a school investigation and will be limited to conduct that the student engaged in while on school grounds, going to or from school, during the lunch period (on or off campus), or during, or while going to or from, a school-sponsored activity.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(s).  The following acts are grounds for suspension:

Assault/Battery:  Causing, attempting to cause, or threatening to cause physical injury to another person, including a school employee.  Willfully using force or violence on another person.  Also included are attempted sexual assault, sexual assault, and sexual battery.  Exceptions may be made in a situation where witnesses and evidence support a case of self-defense.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900(a), (n).

Weapons:  Possessing, selling, or otherwise providing any weapon—including guns, knives, explosives, or simulated weapons, including toys such as pellet, airsoft, paintball, and BB guns.  This also applies to the use of any object in a threatening manner, including traditional classroom supplies like pencils, pens, and paperclips.  Possession of any of these objects does not qualify for suspension if the student had prior written consent from a certificated school employee and pre-approval by the principal.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900(b), (m).

Alcohol/Intoxicants/Controlled Substances:  Unlawfully possessing, using, selling, or otherwise providing alcohol, intoxicants (including inhalants such as glue, paint, or liquid paper), or controlled substances, including prescribed medications.  This also includes being under the influence of alcohol, intoxicants, or controlled substances.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(c)-(d).

Substance in Lieu of Alcohol/Intoxicants/Controlled Substances:  Delivering, providing, or selling items that are claimed to be alcohol, intoxicants, or controlled substances but are not such items. Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(d).

Drug Paraphernalia:  Unlawfully possessing, offering, arranging for, or negotiating to sell any drug paraphernalia.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(j).

Tobacco or Nicotine Products:  Possessing, providing, or using tobacco, or any item containing tobacco or nicotine products, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, clove cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snuff, chew packets, and betel.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(h).

Robbery or Extortion:  Committing or attempting to commit a robbery or extortion.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(e).  Extortion occurs when threats are made with the intent to obtain money or something of value.  Cal. Penal Code § 518.

Property Damage:  Causing or attempting to cause damage to school property or private property.  Parents or guardians are legally responsible to pay for any losses or damage to public property caused by a student.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900(f), 48904.  School property includes, but is not limited to, electronic files and databases.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(u).

Property Theft:  Stealing or attempting to steal school or private property, or receiving stolen property.  Parents may be required to pay for damages.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900(g), (l), 48904.  School property includes, but is not limited to, electronic files and databases.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(u).

Obscenity:  Committing an obscene act or engaging in regular profanity, swearing, or vulgarity.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(j).

Disruption or Defiance:  Disrupting school activities or otherwise refusing to follow the authority of school personnel, including supervisors, teachers, school officials, or other school staff performing their duties.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(k).

Sexual Harassment (Grades 4-12):  Making unwelcome advances, requesting sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sufficiently severe character.  “Sufficiently severe” conduct is conduct that a reasonable person of the same gender as the victim considers to have a negative impact on that individual’s academic performance or to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900.2, 212.5.

Hate Violence (Grades 4-12):  Causing, threatening to cause, attempting to cause, or participating in acts of hate against people or property.  This includes but is not limited to negative behaviors that target members of a particular gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or the mentally or physically challenged.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 48900.3, 233(e).

Threats and Intimidation:  Harassing, intimidating, or threatening a student who is a witness in a school disciplinary proceeding for the purpose of preventing that student from being a witness, retaliating against that student for being a witness, or both.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(o).

Harassment (Grades 4-12):  Harassing, intimidating, or threatening a student or group of students, or school personnel, with the actual or expected effect of disrupting class work, or creating substantial disorder, or creating a hostile educational environment.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900.4.

Hazing:  Engaging in, or attempting to engage in any activities used for initiation or pre-initiation into a student organization or student body, or related activities, which causes or is likely to cause bodily danger, physical harm, or personal degradation or disgrace, resulting in physical or mental harm to a former, current, or prospective student.  This applies to any student attending any school or school event.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(q).

Bullying:  Engaging in an act of bullying, including, but not limited to, cyber-bullying (discussed infra).  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(r).

Terroristic Threats:  Engaging in making terroristic threats against school officials or school property, or both.  A “terroristic threat” includes any statement, whether written or oral, made by a person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death, great bodily injury to another person, or property damage in excess of $1,000, with the specific intent that the statement is to be taken as a threat, whether or not the person making the statement intends to actually carry the statement out.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900.7.

Is there a state policy on bullying?

All districts in California should continue to work to reduce discrimination, harassment, violence, intimidation, and bullying and to improve student safety at schools.” Cal. Educ. Code § 234.  In addition, “all students enrolled in state public schools have the inalienable right to attend classes on school campuses that are safe, secure, and peaceful.”  Cal. Educ. Code § 32261(a).

In California, acts of bullying (including electronic acts) are punishable by either suspension or a recommendation for expulsion.  Cal. Educ. Code § 48900(r).

How does California define bullying?


Definition of bullying: Bullying is a form of violence. It can be physical, verbal, psychological, or sexual. Here are some examples of bullying:

  • Physical: hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing
  • Verbal: teasing, threatening, name-calling
  • Psychological: excluding someone, spreading rumors, intimidating
  • Sexual: touching, assault, exhibitionism, and many of the actions listed above

Bullying may also occur through the Internet or other forms of technology. This is known as cyberbullying. It is sending or posting hurtful material.

Bullying is common, but it should not be viewed as a normal part of growing up. It is more damaging to children than previously thought. Bullying has a negative effect on a student’s ability to learn.

Schools are responsible for creating safe environments for all students. They must work to prevent bullying, and they must respond to it when it happens.

The California Department of Education offers information and resources for parents, administrators, and students about bullying.

Who is considered an EL?

An English Learner, also known as a Limited English Proficient (“LEP”) student, is a student who does not speak English or whose native language is not English and who is not currently able to perform ordinary classroom work in English.  Cal. Educ. Code § 306(a).

English Learners with disabilities are tested, but are allowed variations, accommodations, and/or modifications as specified in their IEP or Section 504 plans.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 56341.1(b), 56345(b)(2), 56385; Cal. Code Regs. tit. 5, §§ 11516 et seq.; Cal. Dep’t of Educ., Assessment System Chart,

If a school district receives federal funds (Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (“ESEA”)), parents or guardians must be informed of the reasons for their student’s identification as an English Learner, and of the need for placement in the specified program, within 30 days of the beginning of school or within 2 weeks of placement in a language instruction program.  For English Learners with an IEP, the school must also notify and explain to the parents/guardians how the recommended placement will help their children meet the objectives of the IEP.

What is the assessment test used for English Learners?  What are the procedures for the CELDT?

California and federal law require school districts to administer an English proficiency test to:

  • newly enrolled students whose primary language is not English; and
  • students who are English Learners as part of their annual assessment.

For California public school students, this test is the California English Language Development Test (“CELDT”).  It tests the student’s proficiency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in the English language.

Because it is a federal and state requirement, parents are not permitted to “opt out” of the CELDT.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 313, 60810; Elementary and Secondary Education Act, tits. I, III; see also Cal. Dep’t of Educ., Frequently Asked Questions About the California English Language Development Test (CELDT),

When must schools give the CELDT?

A Home Language Survey is completed by the parent/guardian when a student is first enrolled in school.  To determine a student’s official language classification, a student whose primary language is one other than English must be assessed for English proficiency within 30 calendar days after the school year begins, or if during the school year, within 2 weeks of the student’s placement in an instructional program.  Cal. Educ. Code  § 52164.1  Schools must also give the CELDT once each year to all English learners until they are English proficient based on criteria established by the local governing board.  Cal. Educ. Code § 52164.19(a).

What instructional programs are available for English Learners?

Enriched English Instructional Services:  English Learners qualify for enriched English instructional services until they have acquired a good working knowledge of English and are meeting or approaching grade level standards on core subject areas.  Cal. Educ. Code § 305.

Use of Language Instruction:  Schools must place students in a program in which nearly all classroom instruction is in English but with instruction designed for children who are learning the language.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 305, 306(d).

Requesting Bilingual Education:  A parent/guardian may request placement of the student in classes where English and other subjects are taught using bilingual education techniques.  In order for students to participate in this program, parents must visit the school each year and sign a waiver form.  Cal. Educ. Code §§ 310-11.

When to Stop Providing Services:  School districts are required to continue to provide additional and appropriate educational services to English Learners until they have demonstrated English-language skills comparable to that of the district’s average native English-language speakers and have recouped any academic deficits which may have been incurred in other areas of the core curriculum.  Cal. Educ. Code § 313; Cal. Code Regs. tit. 5 § 11302.

Does California have a policy for identifying English Learners as having a disability?

The California Education Code does not specifically provide for identifying English Learners who may have a disability.

Helpful documents or links

Cal. Dep’t of Educ., Frequently Asked Questions About the California English Language Development Test,

Cal. Dep’t of Educ., California English Language Development Test (CELDT ),

Cal. Dep’t of Educ., English Learners in California Frequently Asked Questions (2006),

Does California have any state policy on ability grouping?

California does not have any requirements for schools to “track” their students.  However, school districts may do so, including the creation of gifted and talented education programs.

Does the state guarantee students access to any specific classes or quality of classes (such as college prep, etc.)?

Although California recognizes the need to align its classes with its college expectations and the needs of a changing economic landscape, it does not guarantee students access to any specific classes.

However, the University of California (“UC”) and California State University (“CSU”) systems require certain courses (known as “A-G requirements”) as a prerequisite to admission to both the UC and CSU systems.  Individual schools must be approved to offer the A-G requirements, which generally include:

  • History/Social Science: Two years, including one year of world history, cultures, and historical geography and one year of U.S. history or one-half year of U.S. history and one-half year of civics or American government;
  • English: Four years of college preparatory English with no more than one year of English as a Second Language (“ESL”);
  • Mathematics: Three years;
  • Laboratory Science: Two years of laboratory science in at least two of biology, chemistry, and physics;
  • Language other than English: Two years of the same language other than English;
  • Visual and Performing Arts: One year, including dance, drama/theater, music, or visual arts; and
  • College Preparatory Elective: One year (two semesters), chosen from additional “A-F” courses.

Univ. of Cal., Admission:  A-G Courses,

Does the state require schools to have Gifted & Talented programs?  Are there any admission requirements?

The state does not require school districts to offer gifted and talented programs.  The Gifted and Talented Education (“GATE”) program funding is now included in the Local Control Funding Formula (“LCFF”), so funding for this program is now determined at the local level.

Identifying Gifted & Talented Students:  Each school district is responsible for developing a method for identifying students as gifted and talented.

Does the state have common core standards?

California adopted the Common Core State Standards in August 2010 which will be fully implemented in the next couple of years. The Common Core State Standards Systems Implementation Plan for California was presented by the State Board of Education to the Governor and Legislature, thus fulfilling Section 60605.8(h) of the California Education Code.  The Plan describes a sequence of significant milestones.  Cal. Dep’t of Educ., Common Core State Standards Systems Implementation Plan for California (April 2014),

What are the Common Core State Standards?

The Common Core State Standards (“CCSS”) are educational standards that describe what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade.

The CCSS for English-language arts are divided into four strands:  reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language.  Standards for literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects provide additional specificity about the application of reading and writing standards to subject area content.  Vocabulary acquisition and practice are threaded throughout the four strands.  Technology is used to gather and present information.

The CCSS for mathematics are organized by domain.  Students in grades K-5 are expected to achieve mastery in whole numbers arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and fractions.  Students in grades 6-7 extend their work in fractions and develop concepts such as rational numbers and proportional relationships.  Students in grade 8 should be moving forward to higher math, including Algebra I.  The high school standards identify the mathematics that all students should study to be college and career ready and are organized by conceptual categories, including number and quantity, algebra, functions, modeling, geometry, and statistics and probability.  The CCSS also includes standards for Algebra I, Calculus, and Advanced Placement Probability and Statistics.

Cal. Dep’t of Educ., Overview of the Common Core State Standards,

The California Common Core Standards may be found here:  For answers to frequently asked questions, see

What are California’s graduation requirements?

The California Education Code establishes the minimum requirements for graduation from California high schools. Cal. Educ. Code § 51225.3.

Required Test:  All public school students are required to pass the California High School Exit Examination (“CAHSEE”) to earn a high school diploma.  Cal. Educ. Code § 60851(a).

How many times can a student take the test?

All students must take the exam only once in tenth grade.  If students pass one part but not the other, students only need to retake the part they failed.  There are two opportunities in eleventh grade to take any sections of the test not passed.  Each school district must provide eligible twelfth grade students at least three opportunities to take any sections that the student has not passed.  Students may take parts of the test not passed up to five times in twelfth grade.  Cal. Code Regs. tit. 5, §§ 1204, 1204.5.

Are there any exemptions to the test requirement?

Eligible students who have an IEP or Section 504 plan are exempted from this requirement.  Cal. Educ. Code § 60852.3.

What are the required classes for graduation?

Each student must complete the following to receive a diploma:

English:  3 year-long courses;

Math:  2 year-long courses;

Social Studies:  3 year-long courses total – including 1 year-long course of U.S. history and geography; 1 year-long course of world history, culture, and geography; 1 semester of American government and civics; and 1 semester of economics;

Science:  2 year-long courses, including biological and physical sciences;

Foreign Language/Visual Arts/Performing Arts/Career Technical Education:  a 1 year-long course of a foreign language, visual or performing arts, or career technical education; and

Physical Education:  two years, unless the student is exempt under certain provisions under Section 51241 of the California Education Code.

Cal. Educ. Code § 51225.3.

Relevant links on state content and curriculum standards:

Graduation requirements and those of local universities –

California high school exit examination –


California has several Parent Information and Resource Centers, which help implement successful and effective parental involvement policies and programs and activities that lead to improvements in student academic achievement.  They target specific communities and provide a variety of services.

Contact Information

California State Parental Information Resource Center (PIRC 1)
c/o California Association for Bilingual Education
16033 E. San Bernardino Road
Covina, CA 91722

Telephone:  626-814-4441 ext. 103
Email Address:

Summary of Services:  The overall goals of Project INSPIRE (part of PIRC 1) are to:

(a) provide high quality parent education and training to parents throughout California with an emphasis on outreach and services to parents of California’s most disadvantaged students, low income, minority and English Learners;

(b) build the capacity of schools and districts serving disadvantaged students to maintain high quality parent education, training, and leadership programs in the future; and

(c) build the capacity of parent leaders to provide training to other parents and to effectively participate in local school reform efforts.

California Parent Information Resource Center (PIRC 2)
c/o Cambridge Academics
4300 Sisk Road, Suite D
Modesto, CA 95356

Telephone:  209-545-9766

Summary of Services:  Direct services are provided to parents in selected communities in Merced and Stanislaus Counties, West Sacramento and San Bernardino areas.  It works with mostly new immigrant families.


Contact information

California Department of Education
1430 N. Street
Sacramento, CA 95814-5901

Telephone:  916-319-0800


Contact information for the California office

San Francisco Office
Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Education
50 Beale Street, Suite 7200
San Francisco, CA 94105

Telephone:  415-486-5555
TDD:  877-521-2172