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 10. Student Discipline


The concept of an entire chapter of a school law book devoted to student discipline would have been foreign to educators several decades ago. The one Latin phrase known to all teachers and administrators was “in loco parentis” and parents and school officials all accepted the notion that teachers stood “in place of the parents” while students were at school. As the concept of education as a right has developed and parents’ willingness to concede control of their children, even for a short period of time, has diminished, more and more procedures have developed which control the administration of discipline in the school environment. To a large extent, this development dates from the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Goss v. Lopez1 which held that students are entitled to “due process” before they can be deprived of a state granted right to an education even if the amount of process due is minimal because the number of days of suspension is small. As school safety and student behavior issues have become a greater focus of the public’s concern about education, the legal issues relating to student discipline have grown almost exponentially.

This chapter will summarize those legal issues relating to student discipline from the due process procedures necessary to suspend or expel a student from school to the use of corporal punishment. Where boards of education and administrators need certain policies to comply with state and federal law, these will be noted and practical considerations relevant to the student discipline process will also be discussed.

1. 419 U.S. 565 (1975)
1. 95 S.Ct. 729 42 L.Ed.2d 725 (1975)
10. 1 Why does a school system need a student code of conduct?
10. 2 What requirements does state law impose on local boards of education to adopt student discipline policies and codes of conduct?
10. 3 What is the definition of a student support process and a parental involvement process?
10. 4 What is the definition of a progressive discipline process?
10. 5 Are there specific offenses which must be included within a code of conduct?
10. 6 What action must a school take if a student commits an act of physical violence against a school employee?
10. 7 What must be contained within a code of conduct relating to weapons and how are weapons defined?
10. 8 What are the provisions of Georgia's criminal law applicable to weapons at school?
10. 9 What is the definition of bullying and how must it be addressed in the code of conduct?
10. 10 Are students allowed to have cell phones or other personal devices at school?
10. 11 What are the requirements for disciplining students for acts which occur off campus and not at a school function?
10. 11.a Do students who have been arrested or charged with a crime have the right to return to school while they are awaiting the disposition of their criminal case?
10. 12 How are codes of conduct to be distributed to parents and students?
10. 13 What role should parents play in drafting a school’s code of conduct?
10. 14 What is the difference between a short term suspension, a long term suspension and an expulsion?
10. 15 Can a school system permanently expel a student from school and, if so, under what circumstances?
10. 16 What process is due a student before a short term suspension can be imposed?
10. 17 Are there circumstances where a student can be removed from school without going through this due process?
10. 18 What process is due before a student can be suspended long term or expelled?
10. 19 Does a student facing a long term suspension or expulsion have the same procedural rights as a suspect facing a criminal prosecution?
10. 20 May the board of education delegate student discipline hearings to a tribunal or hearing officer and what steps must it take to do so?
10. 21 What discipline cases must be referred to a tribunal or hearing officer?
10. 22 To what students is the Public School Disciplinary Tribunal Act applicable?
10. 23 What must be included in a charge letter sent to the student and parents before a disciplinary hearing?
10. 23.a What happens if a student withdraws from school before the disciplinary hearing process is completed?
10. 24 What rights does a student have at a disciplinary hearing?
10. 25 What rules of evidence apply in student disciplinary tribunals?
10. 26 What is the effect of a decision by a court that a student has not violated the criminal code on a subsequent tribunal hearing about the same incident?
10. 27 What role can the school district’s attorney play in the disciplinary hearing?
10. 28 How does the tribunal announce its decision?
10. 29 If the student is dissatisfied with the decision of the tribunal or hearing officer, what are the steps to appeal?
10. 30 Can a tribunal decision be appealed by the school administration or by the victim of the student misconduct?
10. 31 What is the role of the board of education in reviewing a student discipline appeal?
10. 32 Do the parties have a right to appear before the board on a student discipline appeal?
10. 33 Can the board of education increase the punishment given to the student by the tribunal?
10. 34 Are student discipline hearings and meetings of the board of education to consider appeals subject to the Open Meetings Act?
10. 35 What records must be maintained of a student discipline hearing and are those records subject to the Open Records Act?
10. 36 How is the board of education required to give notice of its decision to the student and parents?
10. 37 What are the steps to appeal a decision of the local board of education to the State Board of Education?
10. 38 What must a superintendent do upon receipt of a notice of appeal to the State Board of Education?
10. 39 What does the State Board of Education do in reviewing an appeal and what steps are available after the State Board of Education rules?
10. 40 What happens if the punishment given to the student has been served before a case can be decided on appeal?
10. 41 Under what circumstances can a board of education create and utilize an alternative educational program?
10. 42 Can a school system enforce a suspension or expulsion from another school system?
10. 43 Do teachers have any authority to remove students from their classroom?
10. 44 How are the suspension, expulsion and teacher authority rules to be applied to special education students?
10. 45 What are the requirements if a school wishes to use corporal punishment?
10. 46 What is a chronic disciplinary problem student and what steps must a school system take to deal with these students?
10. 47 If parents will not attend a conference for a chronic disciplinary problem student, what recourse is available to the school system?
10. 48 What records must school systems keep and what reports must be filed with the State dealing with student discipline?
10. 48.a What is a persistently dangerous school?
10. 48.b What action must a persistently dangerous school take?
10. 48.c What rights do victims of violent crimes have?
10. 49 What obligation does a school system have to report student discipline incidents to the court or to law enforcement?
10. 50 Do the requirements about reporting students to law enforcement apply to special education students?
10. 51 How can school systems develop the most effective relationship with the court and law enforcement system?
10. 52 Can school officials be sued for their involvement in student discipline matters?
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