Counsel in School Exclusion Cases: Leveling the Playing Field

Posted: 9 May 2018

Date Written: February 1, 2016


Access to education is crucial to a child’s future. Although there is no federal constitutional right to an education, it has been deemed a property interest that cannot be taken away without adherence to due process. But over the last twenty years, with the rise of the zero tolerance movement, it has become far easier to exclude children from school. Despite the due process protections available, many children facing school exclusion do not have their rights adequately protected without the presence of counsel in school discipline proceedings. Using actual case studies, this Article seeks to broaden the discussion of the civil right to counsel movement to include a right to counsel in school discipline proceedings where a child’s right to education is at stake. This Article will highlight the importance of education and bring to light the ease with which it can be taken away from a young person, particularly a young person of color from a low-income family. States should recognize the importance of education by ensuring that it is a right that cannot easily be taken away— this can be done through the availability of counsel as well as through legislative reforms to our school discipline laws. This Article will also consider the role that law school legal clinics can play in securing counsel for students facing school exclusion. This discussion will hopefully help guide the development of public policy surrounding school discipline and, at the very least, contribute to a discussion of needed legal reforms and the expansion of the services provided by law school legal clinics.

Keywords: right to counsel, school exclusion, school discipline, legal clinics

Suggested Citation

Waterstone, Julie, Counsel in School Exclusion Cases: Leveling the Playing Field (February 1, 2016). Available at SSRN:

Julie Waterstone (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States

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