education code, though helpful resources for such an endeavor certainly exist.61 Instead, this
Section’s limited goal is to identify the variety of trends taken by various states with regard to
individuals permitted to adjudicate student disciplinary tribunals in order to determine the kinds
of procedural practices various states permit, regulate, and limit. Finally, this Section normatively
evaluates the variety of trends, concluding that most practices do not fully comport with the thick
impartiality protections this Note proposes.
i. Investigation and Imposition of Charges
In most states, an administrator62 at the building where the misconduct is alleged to have
occurred serves as an initial investigator of a student’s discipline charges.63 The common-sense
reasoning behind this method is that the possession of institutional knowledge by the administrator
will presumably allow her to gather facts most efficiently. The administrator is typically physically
present in the building on a daily basis, and he or she has familiarity with the students and teachers
involved in disciplinary incidents. Just as a detective might be detailed to a certain precinct for
investigating crimes occurring there over a period of time, it seems to make sense that a building-level administrator will handle the function of disciplinary investigations because he or she is
institutionally well-equipped to do so.64 A further advantage to the general trend in allowing
building-level administrators to conduct disciplinary investigations is that it prevents higher-level
administrators, such as the superintendent or her staff, from being involved in the minutiae of
potentially insignificant or petty disciplinary matters.
In states that allow or require a superintendent to adjudicate initial discipline hearings,
limiting a superintendent’s involvement in early fact-finding matters mitigates the concern that the
individual conducting the hearing is serving dual roles or is being affected by bias that may have
arisen during factual investigations. However beneficial the practice of allowing building-level
administrators to maintain an investigative function may be, the practice is mainly a function of
convenience, and not a matter of legislative proscription.65 Based on the author’s review, no state
460, 465 (1977) (presence of superintendent and school board attorney at closed deliberations was a due process
61 See, e.g., Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations for the 50 States, Washington, D.C., and Puerto
Rico, Dep’t of Educ., U.S. DEP’T OF EDUC. (2013), https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/appendix-
62 Here, “administrator” is a catch-all term used to designate any professional educator working in a public school
district who is not a teacher. Administrators act as supervisors to teachers and handle disciplinary matters often referred
to them by teachers. See Daniel B. Abrahams, et. al, Sample Job Classification Specifications, Public Employers Guide
to FLSA Employment Classifications ¶¶ 900, 903 (2015).
63 A building-level administrator would include a principal, vice principal, counselor, or other administrative staff who
handles disciplinary matters within one particular school. See e.g., Graham v. Knutzen, 351 F. Supp. 642, 666 (D.
Neb. 1972) (“It is clear that usually the building principals conduct their own investigation, and in nearly all cases,
end up with a confrontation of the student.”); Jones v. State Bd. of Educ., 279 F. Supp. 190, 200 (M.D. Tenn. 1968)
(“[ i]t is of course the duty of a school administration to be aware of developments at the school and to attempt to solve
problems as they arise”); see generally Five Key Responsibilities – The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools
to Better Teaching and Learning, THE WALLACE FOUND., http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/school-leadership/effective-principal-leadership/Pages/key-responsibilities-the-school-principal-as-leader.aspx.
64 See source cited supra note 63.
65 See, e.g., Wilson v. Hinsdale Elem. Sch. Dist. 181, 810 N.E.2d 637, 640 (Ill. Ct. App. 2004) (permitting principal
to testify at student’s initial hearing with regard to the allegations and student’s academic background).