Student Codes of Conduct
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed October 14, 2023
Student codes of conduct are an essential backbone of any educational program. They define acceptable student behavior and provide guidelines for disciplinary action. Student codes ensure a secure learning environment for every school community member.
This article provides a brief overview of student codes of conduct.
Code of Student Conduct: Background
Teachers in the 1900s had to figure out how to create rules to help them teach. These rules are referred to as "codes of conduct." This process was complicated; they had to consider how schools functioned. They considered what they wanted to achieve with education. They also weighed how to respect everyone's rights, including teachers and students.
Teachers needed to find out what helped kids learn best. After that, they made rules and consequences for breaking these rules. These rules helped deal with kids who were causing problems without interfering with the learning process for other students. In short, teachers had to figure out how to keep the classroom running smoothly. They had to help students learn. Misbehaving kids needed to keep learning too, so teachers had to find a way to guide them.
Teachers use their knowledge, training, and experience to create student codes of conduct. These codes help meet that particular school's goals and challenges. Some schools have step programs. These programs separate students who break the rules for the first time from those who break the rules repeatedly. Students who break a rule for the first time might receive a minor punishment. But if the same student keeps breaking the rules, the consequences may get more severe. The school decides what happens to students based on how they have behaved in the past.
For more information, visit FindLaw's Student Codes of Conduct: Background page.
Creating Student Codes of Conduct
Making school rules is a team effort among school leaders, teachers, and students. Over time, these rules can change to keep up with what our environment or society believes is right. They also can change to follow state laws. Everyone in the school, including students there all day or part of the day, must follow these rules. This is true whether at school or school events outside of the school building.
Making these rules is a big part of discussions about teaching. It's also a big part of ongoing court debates. For example, some court decisions have tried to explain what school rules a court would think are "reasonable." According to these decisions, a well-written set of rules needs to meet four requirements to be considered legally valid:
- The rules must be in writing: Any regulations that students obey without a specific verbal command must be in writing
- The rules must be specific: Policies must be clearly stated to students. They should not refer to an outside source or document. The rules must explain what is expected and what is prohibited
- The writing must be authorized: The writer of the rules must have the authority to define them
- The written rules must be published: The code of conduct must be printed and distributed, for example, in student handbooks and letters home to parents. Schools might also remind students in public announcements during class time and assemblies. They can also post on bulletin boards
Richard Curwin, a professor of Education at San Francisco State University, devised criteria for making codes of conduct more effective. His suggestions were to:
- Use positive rather than negative statements
- Be definite about proper and prohibited behavior
- Be brief
- Spell out the consequences
Thus, the courts began educating the educators on how to arrange schools. Educator's rulings should be deemed valid in the legal setting when responding to misbehavior.
The Content of Student Conduct Codes
School rules usually include sections about honesty in schoolwork. The rules might also cover improper sexual behavior. They also include provisions on being disruptive. They will also cover the rights that students have. Whether you are a part-time or full-time student, it is essential to understand these codes. This set of rules helps keep everything running smoothly on campus. It helps ensure a safe and fair learning environment for all. The following are common sections added to a school's code of conduct.
Codes emphasize the seriousness of plagiarism. They also cover the provision of false information. Codes also cover conduct violations that threaten academic integrity. Alleged violations typically receive written notice. They may result in sanctions, such as reprimands, community service, or disciplinary proceedings.
Disruptive behaviors, such as hazing or misuse of social media, are also code violations. The school administration will take disciplinary action against such disruptive behaviors. In severe cases, they may involve law enforcement.
Rights of Students
Student codes of conduct also articulate the rights of students. These include the right to a safe and inclusive environment free from discrimination based on national origin or other protected status. Students have the right to review their student records. They also have the right to access mental health services. They can also seek referrals to resources that promote their overall well-being.
The code must also address sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual misconduct. This section usually aligns with Title IX regulations. These laws ensure nondiscrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. They protect both the complainant and the respondent. They also ensure due process and a fair adjudication process.
Communicating and Carrying Out the Code of Conduct
In the context of post-secondary education, the code should be communicated to the entire university community. This includes every staff member, faculty, and student. This ensures that everyone understands the behavioral standards. They should also understand the potential disciplinary action for a violation.
During enrollment, you agree to follow the school's code of conduct. This agreement remains in effect for your entire time at the school. If you need clarification on any of the rules, talking to a faculty member is a good idea. They can help explain the code of conduct and ensure you fully understand it.
A school designee assigned by the administration often manages the disciplinary procedures. Their role includes receiving reports of alleged violations, conducting investigations, and imposing sanctions when necessary. Student codes of conduct are vital in maintaining order and a conducive learning environment. They represent a commitment to academic integrity and respect for the rights, dignity, and overall well-being of every school community member.
Discipline policies state clearly that rules benefit everyone in the educational community. They are in effect inside school buildings, on school property, inside school-owned vehicles, and at school-sponsored activities on or off campus. Codes include rules about attendance, absence, and tardiness. They outline steps for parents to take in excusing their children from class. They also instruct teachers on how to keep records of student attendance.
Patterns of unexcused absence or tardiness are quantified. They carry penalties or repercussions related to the extent of the absence patterns. Misbehaving students might be detained in the classroom after other students are free to go on to non-classroom activities, or they might be required to attend a Saturday detention period. During these times, students might be given extra academic work or be required to perform maintenance chores on school property.
Repeat offenders are subject to several potential penalties, including the following:
- Removal from school or out-of-school suspension or expulsion
- Removal from class to a study room
- Placement in an in-school suspension program
- Suspension for a specified time
When students break the law on school property, police officers must take over for educators. Students who use alcohol or other drugs, have controlled substances in their possession or deliver them to others, carry weapons, or assault others are all subject to the same laws they would face elsewhere in the community. Therefore, these forms of misconduct are not solely within the school's jurisdiction.
Students can be charged for crimes committed on school property. They can go to court and face court decisions that place them in juvenile detention centers. School codes must address a vast range of conduct. Codes must consider innumerable factors in or beyond the education setting.
The codes must respond legally to community, state, and federal laws on issues connected to discrimination, harassment, gender, and disability. Student codes of conduct aim to support educational goals and be in line with criminal and civil laws. Often, courts have had the task of deciding if the codes achieve this end.
Getting Legal Help
For more complex cases, such as a violation of law, a referral might be made to a school or to an external law enforcement agency. Here, legal practitioners ensure that the due process of students' rights is upheld during disciplinary proceedings. If you need help with a violation of a code of conduct, you should speak to an experienced attorney.
Get help from an education attorney today.
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