Lex-is School Law Services

Legal Brief:
Student Enrollment Risks and Requirements

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Dear Charter School Leaders and Friends,

As charter school counsel I receive a steady stream of legal questions from clients.  Some are "standards," and some are new, unique and/or complex (which makes the legal practice interesting).  So that others can benefit from our research and responses, sometimes I like to share a short legal question and answer (a "Legal Brief") arising from these queries. 

This Brief is offered below. If you need help with this or other questions, please contact me directly. 

Best regards,

David Hostetler, Esq.

919.308.4652 / hos@lex-is.com


Does a charter school have to enroll an otherwise eligible student ("Applicant") who may pose a safety threat to the school community, if the Applicant has not yet been criminally convicted  or previously suspended or expelled from another school?

Brief Answer

Probably yes,  but with some options to reasonably address the safety concerns.

Brief Considerations
  1. Charter schools must enroll any student who is eligible for enrollment in the local educational agency (LEA)
  2. G.S. 115C-366 allows a school or school system to deny admission to an otherwise eligible student if, among other things, the student has been convicted of a felony, or if the student has been suspended or expelled from another school, or engaged in conduct that would warrant suspension or expulsion in the respective LEA.  For the latter two reasons, the charter school may deny admission for only as long as the suspension would be in effect. Furthermore, boards must allow a prospective student a hearing if being denied admission for a prior suspension. 
  3. Unless these statutory enrollment exceptions apply, the charter school probably must admit the student.
  4. Because of the potential risk to others, the school has several options whose viability depend on such factors as the severity of the risk, the kind and degree of evidence of a threat, and other relevant facts.
  5. Options include admitting the student under one or more of the following actions:
    1. Careful monitoring and/or reasonable student restrictions;
    2. Disciplining or suspending the student if the student violates any restrictions;
    3. Immediate short-term or long-term suspension of the student pending further investigation (e.g., pending the outcome of a criminal investigation or judicial proceeding if one exists).  A long-term suspension warrants a board hearing. 
  6. Option 3, above, is not something I have seen or heard of being used.  Nevertheless, as I read the statutes, I believe it would be technically permissible. Because it would be an especially serious action,  it should be used only if  necessary: that is, if the risk is significant, and the grounds and evidence for upholding such action exist.  
As always, involve legal counsel in addressing specific situations like this.  


Contact Information:

Lex-is School Law Services
1289 Fordham Blvd, #251
Chapel Hill, NC  27514

Main Phone:  919.442.8593  

David Hostetler: 919-308-4652 / hos@Lex-is.com

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