Can A High School Refuse A Student?

A high school is a publicly funded institution subject to certain rules and regulations regarding student enrollment. Does that mean high schools can refuse students?

High Schools Can Refuse Students

Generally, a high school cannot refuse to admit a student based on race, gender, religion, or disability. These are protected characteristics, and discrimination based on these characteristics is illegal.

However, a high school may refuse to admit a student if they do not meet specific criteria. Like age or residency requirements. Additionally, a student can be denied enrollment if they have a history of disciplinary problems. Or if they are found to be a danger to the safety of other students. 

Can A High School Refuse A Student? Yes!

The school must prove that the decision was made based on a sound educational reason, not on any protected characteristics. High schools can refuse students who are not in compliance with specific state or district policies.

Age Requirements

There are age requirements that a student must typically meet to be admitted to a high school. Age prerequisites vary by state, but students must typically be between 14 and 18 years old to attend high school. 

Some states have age waivers that allow younger students to attend high school if they have advanced academically. If a student does not meet the age requirement or receives a waiver, the school may refuse enrollment and direct the student to the appropriate age-specific school.

Location Matters

Residency requirements are a common reason high schools can refuse students. Students must typically live within the boundaries of the school district or area that the high school serves to attend that school.

This requirement is in place because taxpayers fund public schools within the district. Thus, only district residents should have access to the school. Exceptions may apply, like if the student’s family moves into the district during the school year or if the student is homeless.

School District Refusal

Not only can high schools can refuse students, but school districts can refuse to enroll a student in their district schools under certain circumstances. For example, if a student has a history of disciplinary problems or a criminal record, the school district may choose not to enroll the student in their schools. 

Additionally, the district may refuse enrollment if a student does not meet the necessary residency requirements. Or if the student does not have the required immunizations.

However, in most cases, public schools must enroll any student who lives within the district and meets the necessary age requirements. Under federal law, students cannot be denied enrollment based on discriminatory factors such as race, national origin, sex, or disability. 

Furthermore, if a student is homeless or an English Language Learner (ELL), the district must provide them with appropriate education. School districts also may not pick and choose who to admit or deny by using admission tests or specific academic qualifications for admission. 

They are required by law to provide free and appropriate education to all students. If a student is denied enrollment in a school district, the family may have the right to appeal the decision and prove it is discrimination.

Private School Option

Private schools have more freedom in terms of student admission than public schools. For instance, private high schools can recruit students.

As a private institution, they are not bound by the same laws and regulations regarding student enrollment. Private schools are not required to accept all students who apply. They can use different criteria to determine student admission. 

Private schools are allowed to refuse admission to a student for various reasons. They include academic or disciplinary issues or not meeting the school’s religious or other requirements. Thus, in some ways, it can be argued that private schools are better than public schools.

However, private schools cannot discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability under federal law, which private schools are subject to. State and local laws may also provide additional protections.

Although private schools have more autonomy, they are expected to be transparent about the criteria they use for student admission. Moreover, they must consistently follow their own admission policies.

Lack Of Discipline

A student can be refused enrollment if they have a history of disciplinary problems, but the circumstances must be considered. In general, a student cannot be denied enrollment in a school district simply because they have been in trouble in the past. 

However, if a student has a history of severe or persistent disciplinary problems, it could be grounds for refusal of enrollment. The school district must consider the student’s circumstances and the severity of their past behavior. 

For example, if a student has a history of violent behavior, the school district may have valid safety concerns and could deny enrollment. Nevertheless, if a student has been involved in minor disciplinary infractions, the district would likely have a more challenging time refusing enrollment.

Additionally, according to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students with disabilities cannot be denied enrollment on the basis of their disability or behavior resulting from their disability. 

If that is the case, they must receive appropriate support and services. And the district would have to consider the student’s IEP before making any decision about enrollment.

Student Safety

High schools can refuse students if they are deemed a danger to the safety of other students. The safety of students and staff is a top priority for schools.

Therefore, if a student poses a significant threat to the safety of others, the school may choose to deny enrollment as a precautionary measure. However, it would be necessary for the school district to have a process that allows for an assessment of the student’s behavior and the potential risks they may pose.

When assessing a student’s behavior, the school district should consider the student’s circumstances. The severity of the behavior, and the likelihood of it recurring should also be weighed. 

They should also consider any past interventions that were attempted and any support services that were provided. If the student’s history of behavior suggests a significant risk of harm to others, the school district is likely justified in refusing enrollment.

However, it’s important to note that even if students pose a safety risk, they are still entitled to a free and appropriate education. The district must provide proper support and services. This includes counseling or a special education program, to help the student succeed in school. 

The district must also make sure to involve the student’s parents and provide an opportunity for an impartial hearing to address the safety concerns and assess their risk and have the opportunity to present evidence and testimony. The decision will be based on the evidence presented.

Legal Actions

If a student or their family feels that the student has been wrongly refused enrollment at a high school, there are several legal actions that they may be able to take.

First, the student or their family may file a complaint with the school district, which will then be investigated. This complaint should detail why the student feels they were wrongly refused enrollment. It should also include any relevant documentation, such as proof of age, residency, or disciplinary records.

If the complaint is not resolved through the school district, the student or their family may file a complaint with the state education department. The state education department will investigate and decide based on the evidence.

If the student feels discrimination has occurred, they could file a discrimination complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). OCR is an arm of the US Department of Education that investigates discrimination in education.

Finally, suppose all of the above fails to provide a solution. In that case, a student or their family can seek legal representation. They are allowed to file a lawsuit against the school district to force them to enroll the student in school.

Note that different states have different laws and regulations that would apply in this situation, and it’s advisable to consult with an education attorney or legal aid if there are any doubts.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, high schools can refuse students under certain circumstances. If a student poses a significant threat to the safety of other students, the school may choose to deny enrollment. This will be considered a precautionary measure. 

However, the school district must have a process in place that allows for an assessment of the student’s behavior. The potential risks they may pose should also be assessed throughly. They must also consider the student’s individual circumstances. Plus, the severity of the behavior, and any past interventions or support services that were attempted. 

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