Student Codes of Conduct: Basic Issues
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed October 05, 2023
The code of student conduct is a set of guidelines established by the Board of Education. It helps to foster a positive learning environment on and off campus. The code sets out what behavior is expected of students. It outlines sanctions for violating these rules. The code ensures that students understand the consequences of their actions.
This article provides a brief overview of the basics of student codes of conduct.
A Brief Introduction to Student Codes of Conduct
The classroom is designed to provide students with a structured environment where they can learn. Children, even those generally well-behaved, may try to test the rules for two reasons.
First, they are away from their parents, which makes them feel independent even though a teacher should be watching them. For this reason, some students habitually come to class late or skip class altogether. Second, as children learn to socialize, they seek ways to generate attention. This can include negative attention for being disruptive. For example, the student may tend to talk out of turn or play the class clown.
In years past, schools offered courses in what was known as "civics." Civics courses often taught the importance of integrity, honesty, and respect for others. Civics courses have fallen out of favor for the most part. However, many schools do offer some coursework focusing on understanding values. Nonetheless, there are always students who will break the rules.
Expectations of Student Conduct
The code generally expects students to treat everyone with respect. Respect is due irrespective of gender identity, national origin, sexual orientation, or other protected attributes as outlined in federal law. The federal law that outlines these protections is Title IX. Behavior such as sexual harassment, sexual assault, and hazing are severe violations of this code. These offenses may also be criminal under state law or local law.
Students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that is not disruptive to the learning environment. Disorderly conduct, vandalism, and unauthorized use of personal property could result in disciplinary action. Also, students must maintain the academic integrity of their educational programs. Plagiarism and providing false information are considered serious offenses.
By law, illegal drug use, possession, or distribution is strictly forbidden. Alcohol and drug paraphernalia are also not allowed on campus. Such actions could lead to disciplinary proceedings or cause referral to law enforcement, potentially resulting in criminal charges.
Issues Covered in the Student Code of Conduct
School officials stress that even minor infractions of the code of conduct can signal more behavioral issues. Failure to offer discipline and guidance can lead some students to more violations. Among the less severe types of behavior that violate the code include:
- Repeatedly coming to class without appropriate supplies (books, gym clothes, etc.)
- Leaving school property without permission
- Defacing school property (vandalizing books, for example)
- Disruptive behavior
- Wearing inappropriate clothing
- Bringing music-playing devices to the classroom
- Bringing or distributing controlled substances on campus
- Sexual misconduct
Each of these infractions of student codes of conduct warrants different punishment. The student code of conduct outlines the appropriate sanction and disciplinary procedures. Violation of the code can result in a variety of other consequences.
Disciplinary Actions for Violating the Student Code of Conduct
When a student violates the code, the faculty or staff member may issue a referral for disciplinary action. Sanctions may range from loss of privileges and community service to suspension or expulsion. In severe cases, the student may face eligibility issues with future enrollment.
The following consequences may be issued to students who violate the student code of conduct:
- Giving a verbal warning or notice of misconduct
- Having the student stay after school
- Issuing a written warning
- Requiring a conference with the student's parents
- Revoking the student's parking privileges
- Changing the student's schedule
- Ordering probation for a period of time
- Requiring the student to perform community service
- Issuing mandatory attendance at counseling sessions or treatment programs
- Imposing sanctions from participating in student organizations or sports
- Ordering suspension or temporary removal from the school for a specified period of time
- Issuing expulsion or permanent removal from the school
- Referring to the criminal justice system through law enforcement if there is a violation of law
For more information, visit FindLaw's Student Codes of Conduct: Serious Violations and Violence page.
Procedures for Student Code of Conduct Violations
Upon noticing or receiving a report of a violation, a faculty member may document the misconduct in a written statement. This document then becomes part of the student's records. These documents are kept confidential from the public under FERPA. However, the student's records can be accessed by the student and the student's parents.
Written notice of any alleged violation and the disciplinary action taken is provided to the student. Both the complainant and the respondent have the right to due process. Due process means they can present their case and any new evidence to a designee, usually an adjudicator. The decision on the alleged violation is typically based on the preponderance of the evidence. This is a legal term that tests if it is more likely than not that the code was violated.
Rights of Students
Students have specific rights that protect them within the school environment. These rights encompass aspects of student discipline. These rights include the right to a fair process and a chance to appeal if they've been wrongly disciplined. Students also have a right to express themselves. This includes behavior on social media, as long as it does not involve lewd content or infringe on the rights of others. Students also have the right to access mental health resources and a reasonable time to complete assignments and tests.
Students can access their educational records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). They also have the right to appeal a disciplinary action if they believe it was unjust. Good cause, such as a procedural error or new evidence, must be demonstrated in an appeal.
In cases where student conduct may violate laws, students and their parents or guardians have the right to seek legal help.
Getting Legal Help for Violations of Student Conduct
If you face allegations of violating the student code of conduct, you may need and seek legal help. A lawyer can help students understand their rights. A lawyer can also help you interpret the student code of conduct and navigate the legal process effectively.
Consider speaking to an education law attorney today.
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