Student discipline

Essential knowledge for classroom management

Serious student discipline problems in Texas schools are subject to a detailed statutory process designed to maintain the safety and order of campuses and classrooms. In addition, the law requires each district to develop a local student code of conduct that establishes, consistent with the statutory disciplinary requirements, both what student conduct is subject to discipline and what the specific consequence or range of possible consequences will be.

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) might also be of interest.

Also, for information related to discipline and special education students, please read Special Education and Section 504.

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. The code of conduct cannot violate the disciplinary provisions in the Texas Education Code but can establish rules where the code itself is either silent or allows for local discretion.

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 Texas Education Code requires that the code of conduct:
  • Specify when students may be removed from class or campus, consistent with legal requirements.
  • Specify when a student can or must be removed to a disciplinary alternative education program.
  • Outline when a student may be suspended or expelled.
  • Specify whether consideration will be given to whether the action was self-defense, or the student’s intent, prior disciplinary history or disability.
  • Provide guidelines as to the length of the student’s removal, suspension or expulsion.
  • Provide appropriate options for managing student behavior.
The Texas Education Code provides that at any time a teacher can temporarily remove a student to the principal’s office to maintain effective classroom discipline. The code also provides that a teacher can remove a student from class and initially refuse to consent to the student’s return if the teacher can establish that the student has repeatedly or seriously interfered with either the teacher’s ability to communicate or the other students’ ability to learn. The interference can potentially be a pattern of incidents or one very serious incident—the key is showing that the student’s actions have interfered with the educational process.

The education code removal provisions apply to disruption caused by a student. The law does not create a right for a teacher to remove a student because the teacher finds the students’ parent or parents to be disruptive.

After a removal for disruption

When a teacher has requested the removal of a disruptive student, the Texas Education Code states that 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.

The principal may place the student in another class, in-school suspension (ISS) or a DAEP, consistent with the local student code of conduct. Importantly, if the principal feels that the student should be returned to the original classroom, but the teacher does not consent to the student’s return, the principal cannot force the student’s return to the class. If the principal feels that a return to the original class is the best option for the student, the principal must convene the campus’ placement review committee to determine the student’s placement.

The placement review committee

The Texas Education Code provides that each campus must have a placement review committee (PRC) made up of three educators: two teachers chosen by the campus faculty and one professional staff member (teacher or administrator) chosen by the principal. The removing teacher cannot serve on the committee. No rule prohibits the principal from choosing himself or herself as the professional member.

If the principal wants to return a student to a teacher’s class over the objection of the teacher, the administration must convene the PRC. The committee then reviews the matter and makes a decision as to where the student will be placed. The PRC can consider the same alternatives open to the principal, consistent with the student code of conduct, but can also decide that the best or only placement for the student is the original classroom. In most cases, the removing teacher must abide by the decision. However, the PRC cannot require the teacher to accept the student if the removal was the result of an assault against the teacher. 
Separate from the Texas Education Code’s provision for removal due to classroom disruption and requirement for a student code of conduct, the code provides a list of student misconduct that either allows or requires that the student be removed from the student’s normal educational placement and placement in a disciplinary alternative educational placement (DAEP).

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.

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 nonviolent felonies occurring off campus. The length of the removal is determined by the student code of conduct.

 

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      

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.            

Situations that can result in discretionary DAEP placement

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. 
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 below). 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. 
In most cases, a student can be returned to a teacher’s class, even if the teacher has not consented to the return. There are exceptions to this general rule, however:
  • If a teacher made a mandatory removal to a DAEP 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.
All of 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 a 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. 

What is corporal punishment?

Corporal punishment generally means any disciplinary action that affects the body (corpus = body). When most people think of corporal punishment, they think of “swats” administered by an administrator or coach. The Texas Education Code has a specific definition of corporal punishment:
[Corporal punishment is defined as] the deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping, or any other physical force used as a means of discipline. The term does not include:
  1. physical pain caused by reasonable physical activities associated with athletic training, competition, or physical education; or
  2. the use of restraint as authorized under Section 37.0021. [relating to reasonable and necessary restraint of special education students]
What does Texas law say about corporal punishment?
The Texas Education Code provides that each school district shall have the discretion to determine whether to adopt a local policy allowing corporal punishment. The law provides that a local district deciding to allow corporal punishment must allow a parent or legal guardian to “opt out” of the policy by providing a written and signed statement prohibiting the use of corporal punishment on their child. The parent can be required to submit a new statement each year.

It is important for all educators to know and follow their local district’s corporal punishment policy. In addition to the negative employment consequences that can result in a violation of the policy, corporal punishment is an area in which educators can find themselves sued with and without the protections normally provided. Educator can be legally and financially liable for their acts if they have violated their local corporal punishment policy as the law creates an exception to educators’ usual immunity protections. 




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 contact form