What’s the Difference Between Expulsion and Dismissal? Understanding Education Sanctions

December 19, 2023

Expulsion vs. Dismissal

Expulsion and dismissal are the most severe sanctions an academic institution can impose. Both labels connote student separation from the school.  Whenever a student is facing expulsion or dismissal, the student should enlist a lawyer experienced with representing students in the academic setting. There are critical differences between the two sanctions and a skilled student rights attorney may be able to help protect the student’s academic future.

Expulsion: Permanent Separation for Disciplinary Reasons

Generally speaking, expulsion refers to permanent separation from a school for disciplinary reasons, including violations of the code of conduct for students or violations of the school’s Title IX/sexual misconduct policy.  Once a student is expelled, the student cannot register for classes and perhaps the student cannot even enter school property. If a student is expelled in the middle of a semester, the student will likely lose all academic credit for the semester.  Following expulsion, most schools provide an appeal process.  Some primary and secondary public schools do allow a student to seek readmission after a certain period of time.

Dismissal: Separation Due to Academic Performance

Dismissal usually refers to a student’s separation from a school due to unsatisfactory academic performance. Schools do not seek dismissal after one low grade.  Rather, dismissal results from a pattern of low grades or a failure to maintain a minimum grade point average.  Academic dismissal does not occur without warning.  Prior to dismissal, a student is usually on academic probation, during which time the student is required to meet with an academic advisor in an effort to assist with the student’s academic performance.  Some institutions permit students to petition for re-enrollment after a certain period of time, though re-enrollment is not guaranteed.

Program Dismissal: Specific to Academic Progress

Program dismissal is a different type of academic dismissal.  This type of dismissal involves a student being dismissed from a particular academic program or major due to a lack of progress in the program.  Many graduate programs, for example, require students complete their academic coursework within a prescribed period of time.  If a student does not achieve acceptable grades or does not complete classes in a specified timeframe, the student may be dismissed from the program.

Considerations and Rights

Regardless of whether a student faces expulsion or dismissal, it’s essential for a student to understand what notation(s) the academic institution will place on the student’s transcript.  Every institution has different policies surrounding transcript notations, and some schools even offer appeal processes to have transcript notations changed.  An experienced student rights attorney can assist students in navigating student disciplinary and appeal proceedings.

For more information or to discuss further, please contact KJK’s Student & Athlete Defense attorneys Susan Stone (SCS@kjk.com; 216.736.7220) or Kristina Supler (KWS@kjk.com; 216.736.7217).