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Discipline and Punishment

In public school, it's essential for every student to follow a certain set of rules. These rules are the "student code of conduct." This code ensures a positive learning environment for everyone. Students should understand and follow this code. It helps create a respectful and safe school community.

Sometimes, a student's behavior disrupts the learning environment. They may violate the student code of conduct. When this happens, school officials might take disciplinary action. This might be the principal or another staff member. These actions vary depending on the student's misconduct.

This article provides a brief overview of discipline and punishment in American schools.

Student Codes of Conduct

Every public school has a student code of conduct. The school district and the Department of Education guide these school codes. Students receive this code upon enrollment at the beginning of the school year. The school board and school administrators craft the rules in this code. They help ensure a safe and positive learning environment. Student codes of conduct serve as crucial guidelines for behavior within schools. They outline expectations and boundaries set by educational institutions.

These codes encompass a range of topics. This can range from school attendance to participation in extracurricular activities. It can also include appropriate behavior during school-sponsored events and school functions. Discipline policies also address student truancy. They can also include misconduct on the school bus.

Special education students receive particular attention in these codes, protecting their rights under federal law. In cases of infractions, a designee (often a school official) might make a referral. This referral may be for further investigation or counseling.

These codes help ensure that all students have a safe environment for learning, regardless of their particular needs. By abiding by these rules, the school community promotes school safety. They can also promote a more productive school environment.

Types of Misbehavior

Misbehavior in a school environment can range from minor disruptions to serious offenses. The student code of conduct will usually outline types of misbehavior. Some common types of misbehavior include:

  • Disrupting class
  • Hazing or bullying fellow students
  • Violating the school's dress code
  • Vandalism or damaging school property
  • Using controlled substances on school grounds or during school hours without proper authorization
  • Cyberbullying, even when conducted off-campus
  • Physical or verbal altercations
  • Sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other severe offenses

Different types of offenses may result in more severe student discipline than others.

Addressing Misbehavior

If a student breaks the rules, school officials may take disciplinary action. Disciplinary actions vary depending on the misbehavior, including:

  • In-school suspension: The student spends a period of time in a designated space. This space is usually inside the school building and during the school day. School employees may supervise them in these in-school programs.
  • Out-of-school suspension: The student cannot enter school grounds for a set number of calendar days.
  • Alternative education programs: Students might enroll in programs focused on behavioral interventions. This aids the student's mental health and helps them adjust their behavior.
  • Expulsion: In extreme cases, the student may not attend school at all for an extended period. This is usually for the rest of the school year.

Corporal punishment was once a common disciplinary measure. But today, most schools have moved away from this method. Most schools subscribe to more rehabilitative and restorative approaches today.

Many schools have zero-tolerance policies. Zero-tolerance policies in schools refer to strict enforcement strategies. These strategies mandate predetermined consequences or punishments for specific offenses.

Student Rights

Students have rights, even within the framework of school discipline. These rights include:

  • Written notice of any major disciplinary actions
  • Due process before severe disciplinary actions, like the expulsion of a student
  • A hearing, often overseen by a hearing officer, especially if facing severe sanctions
  • The right to continue receiving educational services, even when facing disciplinary actions
  • Special considerations for students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)

It's important that the school community works together to address misbehavior. This includes school employees, the state board of education, the student, and the student's parents.

In situations of severe misconduct, officials might need to impose more severe discipline. In these situations, school personnel might involve law enforcement agencies.

Involving Law Enforcement

Severe violations of the student conduct code might involve law enforcement. This can include situations where the student carries a weapon to school. It could also include when students bring or sell controlled substances. Or it might occur if students commit sexual harassment or sexual assault.

In these severe situations, discipline can go beyond school discipline, leading to involvement with law enforcement. School staff members collaborate with local law enforcement agencies on these matters. This helps ensure the safety of every individual student. It also helps protect the school community at large.

Getting Legal Help

Sometimes, a student or their parent may believe certain disciplinary actions are unfair. They may believe someone violated the student's rights.

Seeking legal help can offer guidance. This is especially true in complex situations. Complex situations may involve civil rights, state law, or federal guidelines. Lawyers can help inform you about the rights of students.

Get help from an educational attorney today.

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