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Student Codes of Conduct: Background

Student codes of conduct are a fundamental part of the current educational system. Codes of conduct are implemented to create a safe and nurturing learning environment for every student. A code is a comprehensive document designed to shape student behavior in educational programs. It details how to ensure a respectful, inclusive school community.

A code is not a static document frozen in time. Amendments are often made in response to changes in state or federal law. They also can be a response to changes in societal norms. Changes in a code may also arise from specific incidents.

This article provides a brief overview of the student code of conduct basics.

Student Codes of Conduct: A Brief Overview

An important ingredient for successful schools is a well-behaved student body that's eager to learn. Children are taught the difference between good and poor behavior early on. Ideally, this behavioral training accompanies them into the classroom. Teachers and school administrators should serve as role models. They should ensure that students meet certain conduct expectations.

Student conduct codes, often found in a student handbook, set the rules of behavior in private and public schools. Students are subject to these rules after completing enrollment. The rules help create a safe and positive environment where all students can learn. A code of conduct has rules about many different types of behavior. It has rules against lewd or inappropriate actions. It also outlines how students should treat each other appropriately and with respect.

Student codes of conduct serve both the classroom and the individual. They outline students' rights. This ensures that no student will be penalized based on anything but a violation of the rules. They also outline students' responsibilities. They let individual students know that they need to meet specific standards.

"Conduct" covers a wide variety of behaviors. A violation of conduct rules may include something relatively minor, like passing notes in class. Or it can be as serious as carrying a concealed weapon into the building. It is up to the school administration to set and enforce its rules in a code of conduct. The school administration works together with parents and students to enforce these rules. Remember, these rules apply during all student-related activities. This includes those run by student organizations.

A typical school code of conduct begins with an outline of student and faculty rights and responsibilities. It then lists different infractions and prescribes appropriate disciplinary measures. These disciplinary measures are usually based on the severity of the infractions set forth in the code of conduct. These measures also explain the student's right to appeal any disciplinary action.

Student Rights and Faculty Rights and Responsibilities

It is essential to remember that both students and faculty have rights and responsibilities. Students should be informed of the school district's policies and regulations. They also have the right to know each course's academic requirements and the right to be advised of their progress. Students have privacy rights as well; their possessions are generally off-limits. However, if the school has reason to believe that a student is carrying something illegal, such as a knife, that becomes a different matter. Desks and lockers are school property. With this reason to believe, schools may properly inspect desks and lockers without student permission.

By law, students also have the right to legal representation during disciplinary procedures. This right is fundamental in cases of alleged serious wrongdoing, such as those involving allegations of sexual harassment or assault. Under Title IX and under the authority of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, educational institutions are to take steps to prevent such incidents. They must also respond appropriately when these incidents occur. This may involve referral to an outside agency for further investigation or legal action. Learn more about student rights in FindLaw's Student Rights section.

Teachers, likewise, have the right to be able to do their job without the distractions of student bad behaviors. They also have the right to discipline students appropriately when necessary. Most codes of conduct are written to allow teachers some leeway when choosing disciplinary action.

Suppose a student is accused of committing a serious offense that violates a school's student code of conduct. Suppose it resulted in suspension or expulsion. In that case, they can appeal the decision under due process law rules. No student can be singled out for punishment based on race, sex, color, religion, disability, or national origin. Moreover, school jurisdiction applies to school grounds in most cases. In addition, codes of conduct are valid when students attend school-related functions off the school property.

Background and History of Student Codes of Conduct

In the early 20th century, codes of conduct were fairly basic. They focused mainly on disruptive behavior, like vandalism, and keeping order in school. Over time, these early rules evolved into more comprehensive documents. They began to cover a wide range of student behaviors inside and outside school.

One critical turning point was the passage of Title IX in 1972. This federal law was codified in Title 20 of the United States Code (U.S.C.). The law protects people from sex-based discrimination in any educational institution. This law led to significant changes in codes of conduct, especially in addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The 1980s and 1990s saw the introduction of zero-tolerance policies for drugs and weapons. These amendments focused on maintaining safety in the educational process. However, these policies sparked controversy over fairness and the severity of sanctions.

In the 21st century, the rise of social media led to new challenges. Cyberbullying has become a pressing issue. In response, many codes were amended to include prohibitions on cyberbullying. These provisions underlined that student behavior online could impact student well-being.

Application of the Student Code of Conduct

Codes of conduct apply generally to both curricular and extracurricular activities. Students should also follow them during school-sponsored activities. They also apply to social media, when the student's behavior could impact the school community.

The student code of conduct is in effect for a certain period of time. Usually, they are in effect for the entire school year. But even when school is out for breaks or vacations, students should behave in a way that respects others. They should also follow the rules outlined in the code of conduct. For example, hazing violates the code and also state law. It can lead to disciplinary action during the school year or the summer.

The code, shaped by the board of education and local, state, and federal law, is designed to ensure a safe, respectful learning environment. It addresses various behaviors and provides clear disciplinary procedures for violations. Essentially, the code supports the educational process. It promotes a positive school community that values respect, inclusivity, and individual well-being.

Implementing the Code: Disciplinary Procedures

When there is an alleged code violation, disciplinary procedures come into play. The school's designated official (or designee) initiates the process. This person is often a faculty member or a school personnel member trained in adjudicating such matters.

First, the designee will investigate the alleged violation. This process involves interviewing the students involved and any witnesses. It also requires reviewing relevant student records or educational records. If the designee concludes there was a violation, sanctions will be determined. Sanctions can range from a verbal or written reprimand to a suspension or expulsion. The severity of the sanction usually depends on the severity of the violation.

However, not all violations are treated as merely punitive. In many cases, the goal of the code is to educate and restore. A student caught plagiarizing, for instance, may be required to attend a workshop on academic integrity. Community service may be part of the sanction for disruptive behavior cases. This is enforced to help restore a sense of school community and responsibility.

Law enforcement may become involved in severe cases, such as those which involve physical contact or threats. In all cases, it is crucial to remember that the student's parents have a right to be informed and involved in the process.

Getting Legal Help for Student Code of Conduct Issues

Understanding the code of conduct and the laws that shape it can be complex. If a student faces disciplinary action, they might consider getting legal help. If students or their parents believe their educational rights have been violated, they should also seek help.

Some law schools have clinics that offer free or low-cost assistance. Local bar associations can also provide referrals. Legal aid organizations can help, especially in civil rights cases. This includes discrimination cases. Discrimination can be based on gender identity or sexual orientation. It could also involve race, national origin, or disability.

If you or your child are facing a severe issue related to the student code of conduct, getting legal help is a smart move. You can find free or low-cost legal advice at law school clinics or other clinics where law students guided by expert lawyers offer their services. You may also qualify for legal aid or help from a legal services office. Contact your local office directly to see if they can help you.

An education lawyer is also available to help. You can contact one today.

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