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.