Guide to Laws for Students in California

This is a guide to laws related to the education of students of all ages in California, including pre K, preschool, kindergarten, K12, and college. FYI, many of the laws refer to students as “pupils,” but it’s the same as student.

Are students allowed to protest on campus?

Yes. See our Guide to Free Speech for more.

Are students allowed to make obscene or offensive speech or expression?

No, not at a school-sponsored event. See our Guide to Free Speech for more.

What are my rights against bullying or harassment in school?

You have the right to protection against bullying in school. School officials even have the authority to discipline cyber bullies, whether the bullying takes place on campus or off campus. See our Guide to Harassment for more.

Can Black students be forced to wear their hair a certain way?

No, under a new California law (The Crown Act), students have the right to wear their hair in a natural way, including dreadlocks and afros.

Does an internship need to be paid?

An internship can be unpaid in certain circumstances. See our Guide to Internships.

Who is eligible for free school meals in California?

All school children are now provided free breakfast and lunch in California, as part of the California Universal Meals Program.

As of the 2022–23 school year, Education Code (EC) 49501.5 requires public school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools serving students in grades transitional kindergarten through grade 12 (TK–12) to provide breakfast and lunch free of charge during each school day to all students requesting a meal. Students are entitled to these meals regardless of their free or reduced-price meal eligibility.

The California Universal Meals Program was created by Assembly Bill 130 (2021).

When can students be expelled or suspended from school?

A student may not be suspended from school or recommended for expulsion, unless the superintendent of the school district or the principal of the school determines that
the student has committed certain acts. This may include disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.

Students in kindergarten or grades 1 through 3 (and starting July 2020, 4th and 5th grades; and July 2020 through July 2025, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades) may not be suspended. Students in kindergarten or grades 1 through 12 may not be recommended for expulsion.

These rules will apply to charter schools starting July 2020.1SB 419 (2019)

Related Pages

Laws about Internships

Guide to Laws for Parents

See all Legal Guides


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