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Student Codes of Conduct: Background

Among the many ingredients for successful schools is a student body that is not only eager to learn but also well behaved. Children are taught the difference between good and poor behavior from an early age, and ideally that training goes with them into the classroom. Teachers and school administrators are expected to serve as role models, and they also have an obligation to ensure that students meet certain conduct expectations.

Student codes of conduct are designed to serve both the classroom and the individual. They outline students' rights, ensuring that no student will be penalized or singled out based on anything but a violation of established rules. They also outline students' responsibilities, thus letting individual students know that they need to meet certain standards for their own sake and that of the entire class.

"Conduct" covers such a wide variety of behaviors that establishing a formal code within a school system is a complicated matter. A violation of conduct rules can be anything from passing notes in class to carrying a concealed weapon into the building. It is up to the school administration, often working in conjunction with parents and students, to set rules and to enforce them.

A typical school code of conduct begins with an outline of rights and responsibilities for both the students and the faculty. It then lists different infractions (often categorized at different levels of severity) and prescribes appropriate disciplinary measures. It should also explain the student's right to appeal any disciplinary action.

It is important to remember that both the students and the faculty have rights and responsibilities. Students have the right to be informed of the school district's policies and regulations. They also have the right to know the academic requirements of each course and to be advised of their progress. Students have privacy rights as well; their personal possessions are generally off limits. 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, and schools can inspect them without student permission.

Teachers, likewise, have the right to be able to do their job without distractions. They also have the right to discipline students in an appropriate manner when necessary. Most codes of conduct are written with enough flexibility to allow teachers some leeway when choosing disciplinary action.

If a student is accused of committing a serious offense that violates a school's student code of conduct which results in suspension or expulsion, he or she has the right to appeal the decision under due process rules of law. No student can be singled out for punishment on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, disability, or national origin. Moreover, in most cases, school jurisdiction applies to the actual school grounds, but codes of conduct are valid when students are attending school-related functions off the actual school property.

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