Every public school commits to creating a learning environment where students can thrive. To ensure this, the school district often establishes a student code of conduct. This code details student behavior expectations. It also explains disciplinary procedures and the rights of students. It aligns with state law and federal law (under the U.S.C.). This helps ensure schools maintain a safe and educational learning environment for all.
Gone are the days when school officials could raise a paddle to poorly behaving students. Today, in all but a few states, the practice of corporal punishment is not allowed by law. Schools now must determine different ways to account for student misbehavior. This is especially true in light of a growing number of student on-campus crimes.
This section provides a background on school discipline and punishment. Click the links below to learn more.
Discipline and Punishment: Emerging Theories
Education programs today are exploring new approaches to student discipline. Discipline isn't only about punishment. Its main goals include behavior correction and reducing disruptions. Ultimately, it is about ensuring a safe school environment for all. Discipline is part of a broader intervention plan. This plan often includes counseling or other educational services.
Instead of only punishing students for poor behavior, schools now try to focus on the root cause. Mental health and special education professionals often work with school administrators. Together, they develop alternative education programs. These programs aim to correct student behavior while also supporting the students' well-being.
Techniques include school-wide policies that reward adherence to key rules. Other methods include one-on-one behavioral interventions and incremental disciplinary steps. The National Association of School Psychologists champions turning disciplinary measures into "teachable moments." They hope not only to sanction but to nurture and guide students toward better choices in the future.
Meanwhile, zero-tolerance policies still enforce strict punishment for grave offenses. These offenses include possession of a weapon or drugs. This underscores the no-excuse stance on certain serious behaviors.
Student Codes of Conduct
Every school district has its own student code of conduct. This code sets rules and guidelines that students must follow. These rules apply on school property and during school activities. School districts often update them with amendments approved by the Board of Education. If someone alleges a student has violated the code, the law entitles them to due process rights. This ensures that the student receives fair treatment. It also ensures that disciplinary action aligns with board policy and state law.
Within the code of conduct, certain actions that may warrant discipline include:
- Bullying or hazing
- Truancy or skipping school
- Violence, weapon possession, or threats against others
- Drug use or possession
- Failing to follow the dress code
- Disrespecting staff members or students. Disrespect can be based on race, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics.
Actions that could not trigger disciplinary actions are minor disagreements. Also not included is speech that the First Amendment protects. Familiarize yourself with your or your child's school's student conduct code upon enrollment. This will help you avoid actions that violate the code and affect the school environment.
By law, there are limits to how schools can discipline students. Corporal punishment is most often restricted. Suspensions or expulsions must follow certain protocols. Schools must respect student rights. They cannot violate them under the guise of discipline.
Truancy is being absent from school grounds without good cause for an extended amount of school days. These absences are typically unexcused. Truancy can prevent students from receiving a complete education. It also disrupts the schools' attempts to ensure consistency in their classrooms.
Truancy is also a community-wide issue. This is because there are links between truancy, substance abuse, and vandalism. Auto theft and gang activity are also linked to truancy. Juvenile daytime crime rates are often linked to rates of truancy. Finally, truants have a higher likelihood of failing to graduate from high school. This affects the person but also results in social ills well into the child's adulthood. This can cause a loss in tax revenue, health problems, and strains on social services.
Truant students may face disciplinary actions like revocation of their driver's licenses. They may face in-school suspension or other sanctions. The parents of truant students can also face a referral to law enforcement.
The Disciplinary Process
Discipline in schools is essential to maintain a safe learning environment. Stakeholders created the process to be transparent, fair, and in the best interests of all students. School administrators handle discipline. This is often guided by the Department of Education's designee.
Here is a brief overview of the typical steps in the disciplinary process:
- Incident Reporting: Staff members, students, or other parties can make the report. This is usually a teacher or administrator. They will report on any alleged violations of the student code of conduct.
- Preliminary Investigation: Before taking disciplinary action, the designee conducts a preliminary investigation. They gather information about the incident either on or off campus.
- Notification: The student and their parent/guardian receive notification about the alleged violation. This is usually through the form of written notice.
- Meeting/Conference: The school gives the student a chance to speak. The student can share their side of the story. This meeting might involve school personnel and the student. Sometimes, it also includes the parent/guardian. After hearing the evidence and the student's account, the school decides.
- Appeal: Students and parents can appeal to a hearing officer. This is especially true with more severe disciplinary actions, like suspensions or expulsions.
Schools need to apply the disciplinary process consistently and fairly. This helps adhere to the rights of all students.
Appealing Disciplinary Procedures
Some parents or students may feel the disciplinary action received is unjust. Some might feel it is excessively severe. They can start an appeals process. They can request a review and potential reconsideration of those decisions.
The first step in appealing is to submit a formal request, often in writing. You should send this request to the school or school district within a specified period of time. Before diving into a full-fledged appeal, there is usually an informal hearing with school personnel. This meeting includes school administrators, the student, and their parent/guardian. This meeting helps create an open dialogue about disciplinary decisions.
Often, this hearing can result in revisions to the initial disciplinary action. But, if there is no satisfactory resolution, a more formal appeal can happen. In this appeal, a higher authority within the school district hears the case. The appeals process is usually vital in severe cases. This includes those involving readmission after expulsion or allegations of sexual assault. In certain situations, you might need a waiver to proceed with some parts of the appeals process.
For complex situations or concerns about the student's due process rights, get legal help. This can help ensure the student's rights are adequately protected.
Getting Legal Help
In cases of serious/severe disciplinary actions, consult a legal expert. They can guide the student's due process rights and federal laws affecting the case. They can also ensure the school's discipline policies align with board policy and local law. Speak to an education law attorney about your legal issue today.
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