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Student Conduct and Discipline

Student conduct is a key component of an orderly and respectful learning environment. This concept represents the rules that students need to follow. They are in place to ensure that every student gets the most from their education program. It also ensures that all students and staff are treated fairly in the school environment.

Student misbehavior on school grounds can create difficult situations and potentially legal problems. If a student breaks the law somehow, law enforcement officers often handle the matter. If it is a matter of school discipline, it will be in the hands of school administrators.

FindLaw's Student Conduct and Discipline section will help you understand your legal responsibilities. It will help to facilitate a safe and effective learning environment at school. You also will find practical information on classroom management and discipline. Read on to learn more about student conduct and discipline.

General Student Conduct

Student discipline is the system of rules and consequences a school uses to manage student behavior. Discipline is an integral part of a student's education. It helps maintain a productive school environment and teaches students about accountability and respect for rules.

However, the rights of students must also be respected during the disciplinary process. This balance is crucial for the success of any school's discipline policy. It is a critical aspect of a school's mission to provide all students with a safe and orderly learning environment.

Understanding these regulations is important for both students and their parents. They should read and understand the code of conduct at the beginning of the school year. In case of confusion or a serious issue, they should not hesitate to seek legal help.

Student Codes of Conduct

By law, every school district has a student code of conduct. The Board of Education typically sets the discipline policy for each school. This policy is usually outlined in the student code of conduct. This document provides a clear understanding of the behavioral expectations for students. It also offers potential disciplinary action for violations. The policy often includes attendance, dress code, academic honesty, and respect for school property and individuals.

The student code of conduct is a contract between students and school administrators. However, it does not carry the weight of the law. Codes of conduct must respect the law and may not trample on the rights of students. Sometimes, there is some crossover. For instance, a code of conduct may prohibit fighting or cyberbullying. It might also prohibit violating criminal law.

Student codes of conduct typically cover the following behavior issues:

  • Regularly coming to school without proper supplies such as gym clothes, books, etc.
  • Excessive truancy (missing school days)
  • Leaving school campus without permission
  • Wearing inappropriate clothing if there is a dress code
  • Vandalism of school property, including books or lab supplies
  • Using inappropriate or abusive language

The student codes of conduct can be revised or amended by the Board of Education to accommodate changes in federal law or societal norms. Amendments could include updates to the standards of behavior. They can also include methods for maintaining school discipline. Changes can also be made to the consequences for certain behaviors.

School officials or school personnel, such as the principal or their designee, are often responsible for communicating revisions to the codes of conduct to the students and their parents. This is usually via written notice. Enrollment is the process of officially registering a student within a school district. Once students are enrolled, they become part of the school community and are bound by its rules and expectations. This includes the board policy.

School Discipline

When there is an alleged violation of the Student Code of Conduct, school discipline procedures are followed. The severity of the disciplinary action depends on the nature of the student's behavior. Penalties can range from a verbal warning to a period of time of suspension to expulsion from school.

Students are entitled to due process rights under the United States Code (U.S.C.) and federal law. This means the student has the right to an informal hearing. This hearing must be with school personnel before severe disciplinary action is taken. Here, the student can present their side of the story.

Alternative education programs might also be offered to students. This helps ensure their education is maintained. Some states allow corporal punishment (paddling, spanking, etc.) by public school teachers and administrators, but most have prohibited this practice by statute. Most schools that use corporal punishment allow parents to opt out on behalf of their children.

Another popular form of punishment that has begun to fall out of favor is suspension. Suspension burdens parents and the community in general. Schools are more inclined to keep students in school by employing after-school detention or in-school suspension instead. 

In severe misconduct cases, the school board may decide to revoke student privileges. They may lose their right to participate in extracurricular activities, for example. A waiver may be considered if the student demonstrates significant behavioral improvements.

Bullying, Hazing, and Sexual Assault

The Board of Education and the Department of Education take things like bullying, hazing, and sexual assault very seriously. These acts violate federal law and go against school policies for a safe learning environment. These behaviors can occur in school activities, on or off-campus, and during extracurricular activities.

The victim, or complainant, must report any such incident to a trusted staff member. The school then investigates the allegations. If substantiated, the school may take appropriate disciplinary action against the offender. In more serious cases, such as sexual assault, the matter could be referred to the police. The school may also offer the victim mental health resources and other supportive services.

Bullying was once viewed as a part of growing up. It was seen as an unfortunate product of childhood, but in the wake of mass shootings, suicides, and a greater awareness of the psychological effects of bullying, schools have taken a more firm stance. Some schools have enacted a zero-tolerance policy, where a single act of bullying can result in a suspension or other severe sanctions. In contrast, others refer more extreme cases to the police.

With the advent of social media and mobile phone technology, bullying can spread quickly over the internet. This can be much more traumatizing than just a single taunt by a classmate. In response, many schools have enacted strict cyberbullying rules. Some students have been sued for instigating such behavior.

Rights of Students: Due Process and Hearing Officer

Schools must provide due process to students. This means the student has the right to know the charges against them and be allowed to tell their side of the story. Typically, a hearing is held. The hearing is presided over by a neutral hearing officer. This officer helps to ensure the student's voice is heard and that the process is fair. The hearing officer listens to all parties involved. Finally, they make a recommendation based on the school's policies and the presented evidence.

It is important to remember that students have a right to receive educational services. This may be in alternative schooling or home-based learning programs to ensure the student's fully functional education. Sometimes, a student may be readmitted to the school if they can show good cause. This might be demonstrating remorse, making amends, or showing evidence of positive behavior changes. The readmission decision lies in the hands of the school board or its designee.

Getting Legal Help

In certain situations, students and their parents may seek legal help. If a student's due process rights have been violated, for example, they may need legal advice. 

If a student who needs special education gets into trouble, there are extra rules to protect them. For instance, if they misbehave because of their disability, the school might change the IEP or the student's behavioral intervention plan. They will do this instead of taking typical disciplinary action. A manifestation hearing may be held to determine if the misbehavior was caused by this student's disability.

An attorney can help tremendously in these situations. They can help you navigate disciplinary procedures and state law. They can also help determine whether a student's rights have been violated. They can make recommendations on whether bringing a lawsuit is a good idea. Find an education lawyer to help you today.

To learn more about student conduct and discipline, click on a link below.

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