overburden the district. However, in order to be effective, such a practice would have to grant the
board the ability to develop the factual record rather than deferring to an administrator’s factual
record developed below. Simply giving the board a deferential view of the facts developed below
by an involved, and potentially biased, administrator would defeat the purpose of the separation of
To ensure freedom from bias, a better practice by far is illustrated by districts that employ
independent hearing officers who are neither district employees nor board members. The District
of Columbia stands out as a strong example of this practice by affirmatively relocating long-term
suspension or expulsion cases to the Chancellor of Education’s hearing office for adjudication
requiring the use of an independent hearing officer in long-term exclusion cases.278 Such a practice
prevents the appearance of bias, but does so without administratively overburdening the district,
since the hearing method is essentially “outsourced” to other individuals or entities, thereby
decreasing the district’s burden in providing better safeguards against bias.279
A myriad of other examples is found in states that do not require the use of an independent
hearing officer as advocated by this Note but permit their use by local district delegation.280 Even
in absence of the requirement, districts in those states routinely employ the use of hearing
officers.281 In states requiring or permitting the use of independent hearing officers, those officers
may be selected from a wide range of individuals. Some states, such as Arizona, allow districts to
select officers from lists of individuals approved by the school board who serve as administrative
hearing officers.282 Other states require the selection of specifically sanctioned school discipline
hearing officers,283 and some states with well-developed administrative adjudication regimes
permit the use of state administrative law judges to serve as discipline hearing officers, 284 a
practice which lends efficiency and experience to the process to the benefit of both students and
districts. Though the “how” is less important than the “why,” the above models serve as examples
to show that providing an impartial, uninvolved hearing officer can be achieved with a low burden
on school districts, especially when compared to the high burden of consequences with which
students at disciplinary hearings are faced.
Finally, this Note presents a sampling of model provisions representing strong impartiality
protections that would go beyond the current thin impartiality safeguards and fall along the
protections afforded by the education code of Washington D.C. and the federal court decisions of
Gonzales and Butler. Section 1 of the model legislation should read:
Section 1: Requirement of Hearing: (A) Local boards of education shall hold a Due
Process Hearing for any student facing charges of suspension of more than ten days
or expulsion, to occur within seven calendar days of the principal’s initiation of
disciplinary charges. (B) The hearing required by this Section may be in addition
278 See D.C. MUN. REGS. tit. 5-B § 2507.1.
280 See supra note 277.
281 See ARIZ. REV. STAT. ANN. § 15-843(F); CAL. EDUC. CODE § 48918(d) (Deering 2016); COLO. REV. STAT. § 22-
33-105 (2013); 105 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/10-22.6(a) (1988); OR. ADMIN. CODE. § 581-021-0070(2) (2016).
282 ARIZ. REV. STAT. § 15-843(F)(2)(b) (2010).
283 GA. CODE ANN. § 20-2-753(a) (2004).
284 CAL. EDUC. CODE § 48918(d) (2016).