School Discipline Legality: What Do Boards Have the Power to Do?

School discipline has been a topic of conversation among parents, teachers, students and school boards for a long time now. Discipline inside classrooms and hallways has evolved over the years from the days of corporal punishment to in-school suspension. Now, with the advent of social media and the effect of having a camera phone eyeing everything, schools and school boards are having to tread lightly around this subject.

It’s important to understand the rules, the process behind disciplining students, and the rights they carry. Recently, the Department of Education rolled back school discipline guidelines, allowing teachers, students and parents to work together in a more communicative way to find better solutions for disciplining. This is a great opportunity for schools and their boards to understand their roles in disciplining students without stepping over any lines.

What Can Schools Impose?

There have been viral videos of teachers body-slamming students or arguing with kids in a violent way. After something like this occurs it’s very clear to see that there needs to be discussion around what is allowed and what isn’t when it comes to discipline. Regardless of what happens, sometimes students feel they have been unfairly treated by teachers or administrators and can bring allegations of wrongdoing against them.

When students end up breaking a set of rules, schools can hand down different types of punishments. The most common types of punishments are:

  • Loss of privileges, such as participation in school sports or other extracurricular activities
  • Service in school or community
  • In-school suspension
  • Exclusion from class
  • Detention
  • Out-of-school suspension
  • Expulsion

The Role of School Boards

Enforcement of the board’s student conduct and discipline code is usually a function for the administration. This is carried out by the principal, vice-principal or teachers on campus. A board’s student discipline policies may be challenged in court, but courts will usually defer to the decision of school officials in enacting rules of conduct if the rule is relative to concerns the school has. This may be something like avoiding disruption or maintaining a safe school environment.

If rules infringe on the constitutional rights of a student, however, it will be looked at more scrupulously, usually trying to find a way to balance out the interests of the student and the school. A board may also become involved in student discipline when it is necessary to expel a student from school. This generally is executed when a school delegates authority to an administrator to hear an expulsion case. Students are still provided an opportunity to appeal an expulsion decision and school boards must hear them out.

About PGUI

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