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Student Discipline in Texas Public Schools

What if ...

  • A student continues to disrupt your class even though you have tried every discipline technique in the book?
  • You find dangerous weapons on a student?
  • The student with the most difficult behavioral problems is also a special education student?
  • A student assaults somebody on campus?
  • You’ve heard rumors that a student on your campus was arrested last night?

Serious student discipline problems in Texas schools are subject to a detailed statutory process designed to maintain the safety and order of Texas’ campuses and classrooms.

The most common questions are answered below. Also, read your school's student code of conduct for local rules. The complete text of the Safe Schools Act (chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code) may also be of interest.

The Student Codes of Conduct

  • Local school boards must adopt student codes of conduct that specify the circumstances under which students can be removed to disciplinary alternative education programs (DAEPs), suspended or expelled.
  • Each school district’s code of conduct must be posted and prominently displayed on every campus within a district or be made available for review at the principal’s office.
  • The code of conduct must specify whether consideration will be given to self-defense in a disciplinary situation.

Student removal from the classroom

  • At any time, a teacher can temporarily remove a student to the principal’s office to maintain effective classroom discipline.
  • A teacher can remove a student from class and initially refuse to consent to the student’s return if the student repeatedly interferes with either the teacher’s ability to communicate or the other students’ ability to learn, and the teacher has documented such interference. Additionally, a teacher has this right if a student’s behavior is so unruly, disruptive or abusive that it seriously interferes with either teacher communication or other students’ ability to learn.

Sample memo: Student Removal

After a student's removal

  • The principal must hold a conference with the student, the teacher and at least one of the student’s parents. The student may not be returned to class before the conference is held.
  • If a teacher refuses consent for the student to return to class, the student may be placed in another class, in-school suspension (ISS) or a DAEP unless a placement review committee (PRC) overrides the teacher’s lack of consent, determining that the prior placement is the best or only available alternative.
  • The PRC cannot override a teacher's refusal if the removal is the result of an assault against the teacher.
  • The PRC consists of three people: two teachers chosen by campus faculty and one professional staff member chosen by the principal. The teacher who refuses to allow the student to return to class cannot serve on the committee.

DAEP defined
DAEPs are disciplinary alternative education settings that may be either on or off the regular campus but must provide supervision, counseling and instruction in core curricula. By law, school districts must provide these settings for students who violate student codes of conduct. These codes must provide guidelines for setting the length of terms for removals or expulsions that are required or allowed by the Safe Schools Act.

Students in DAEPs must be separated from regular education students, and they must be given the opportunity to complete coursework necessary for graduation requirements before the beginning of the next school year through any method available, including correspondence courses, distance learning or summer school.

Student removal to a DAEP

  • A student must be removed from class and placed in a DAEP for felony acts occurring on campus, within 300 feet of the school’s property, at a school-sponsored event, or for many violent felonies occurring off-campus. Certain other offenses specified in law also trigger mandatory removal. Students also may be removed at the discretion of school districts for non-violent felonies occurring off campus. (Please see lists below for additional information.)

Offenses that Require Mandatory DAEP Placement

Conduct on or within 300 feet of school property or at school-sponsored event

  • Conduct punishable as a felony
  • Assault resulting in bodily injury
  • Use, possession, sale or delivery of illegal drugs or alcohol
  • Abuse of glue, aerosol paint or chemicals
  • Public lewdness or indecent exposure

On- or Off-campus Conduct

  • Retaliation against school employees
  • Conduct punishable as a terroristic threat, false alarm or report of bomb threat, fire, or other similar emergency

 

Situations that Result in Mandatory DAEP Placement

Situations that Can Result in Discretionary DAEP Placement

Off-campus Conduct

  • The student receives deferred prosecution or is adjudged delinquent for conduct punishable as a violent felony; or
  • The superintendent has a reasonable belief that the student has engaged in conduct punishable as a violent felony.

Off-campus Conduct

  • The superintendent has a reasonable belief that the student has engaged in conduct punishable as a non-violent felony or behavior containing elements of deadly conduct.
  • Any conduct occurring within 300 feet of school property that would have required mandatory expulsion if it had occurred on school property.
  • The safety of other students or teachers is threatened.
  • The student’s presence will be detrimental to the educational process.
  • Any other felony conduct for which the student has been adjudicated or received deferred prosecution.
  • The local student code of conduct provides for removal to a DAEP.

Suspension and expulsion

  • Students may be suspended for no more than three school days at a time as an alternative to DAEP placement.
  • Students must be expelled for a certain set of serious offenses (see list on right). Additionally, students may be expelled for an alternate set of offenses occurring at any campus or at any school-sponsored event in the state. These offenses include sale of illegal substances, false alarm, persistent serious misbehavior while assigned to a DAEP or terroristic threat.
  • Students may be expelled for the following offenses committed against other students whether the offenses occurred on or off campus: aggravated assault, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated robbery, murder or criminal intent to commit murder. Local guidelines determine the length of the expulsion.
  • Students also may be expelled for assault resulting in bodily injury against a school district employee or a volunteer; use, possession, sale or delivery of illegal drugs or alcohol; deadly conduct; or possession of a firearm if the activity occurred within 300 feet of school property.
  • When a student expelled from a previous district enrolls in a new district, the new district may continue the expulsion, place the student in a DAEP or allow the student to attend regular classes.
  • Students who present a serious threat can be removed immediately to a DAEP or be expelled.

Offenses that Require Mandatory Expulsion

On-campus Conduct

  • Firearm and weapons offenses
  • Aggravated assault, sexual assault, arson, murder, attempted murder, indecency with a child or aggravated kidnapping
  • Felony offenses involving illegal drugs or alcohol
  • Aggravated robbery
  • Manslaughter
  • Criminally negligent homicide
  • Any of the above committed in retaliation against a school employee, on or off campus

On- or Off-campus Conduct

  • Certain criminal activity in retaliation against a school employee or volunteer

 

Returning a removed student to class

  • If a teacher made a mandatory removal to an AEP due to an aggravated assault, sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault occurring on campus or at a school-sponsored event, the student may not be returned to the teacher’s class without that teacher’s consent.
  • If a student is removed for assaulting the teacher resulting in bodily injury, the student may not be returned to the teacher's class without the teacher's consent.
  • If a student is in the juvenile justice system for an act that occurred in class, the student may not be ordered back to the teacher’s class in which the offense occurred without that teacher’s consent.
  • If a teacher removes a student for seriously or persistent disruptive behavior, and the teacher refuses consent for the student to return to class, the student may be returned to that teacher’s class only if a placement review committee overrides the teacher’s lack of consent, determining that the prior placement is the best or only available alternative.

Discipline of younger students
All the discipline laws apply to all students regardless of age with two exceptions:

  • Students younger than 10 years old cannot be expelled from school except for carrying a firearm to school. For other expellable offenses, students younger than 10 must be removed to an DAEP but should not be mixed with non-elementary students. 
  • DAEP placements must be available for elementary school students. However, students younger than 6 years old cannot be removed to an off-campus DAEP but must receive on-campus consequences except in cases of carrying a firearm to school. Even in this case the student may not be expelled. 

Law enforcement reports to school districts

  • Law enforcement officials must notify a school district when a student is arrested or detained for most felony criminal offenses; when a student is convicted or judged delinquent in the juvenile justice system for those same offenses; or when a student receives a deferred prosecution or deferred adjudication order.
  • When a student under the jurisdiction of a parole or probation office enrolls in a new district, the new district must be notified.

Principals' reports to law enforcement officials
Any principal who has reasonable grounds to believe that a serious crime (as specified in Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code) has occurred on campus or at a school-sponsored event or has knowledge of any other criminal conduct for which a student may be expelled must report that information to the district police department, if available, and to local law enforcement officials.

School officials' reports to employees

  • School districts must inform teachers if they are to have regular contact through classroom assignments with students who have engaged in expellable offenses or have engaged in conduct constituting unlawful restraint, indecent exposure, assault, deadly conduct, terroristic threat or organized criminal activity.
  • Superintendents who receive required notification from law enforcement authorities must promptly notify all instructional and support personnel who supervise the student(s) named in the report.
  • Principals who make required notifications to law enforcement authorities must promptly notify all instructional and support personnel who supervise the student(s) named in the report.
  • School districts must notify any educator responsible for providing instruction to a student when the student is placed in a DAEP for misconduct.
  • School districts must notify any educator responsible for providing instruction to a transfer student if the student was placed in the former school district's DAEP at the time of the transfer.
  • The notified educators must keep the information confidential.

The law on special education discipline

Help Prevent School Violence

The Departments of Education and Justice created a publication called Early Warning, Timely Response, which outlines strategies for preventing school violence. Although it has been distributed to every U.S. school, you can obtain a free copy by calling (877) 4ED-PUBS or download it at www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep/gtss.html.

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The legal information provided on this website is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly and readers should consult directly with an attorney. Eligible ATPE members should contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department using our online system, MLSIS.
 

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