It’s Toolbox Tuesday!! How well do you know your Code of Conduct?

Fundamental rule in student discipline: comply with your Code of Conduct.  I came across a case from New Jersey where they must have a really hard core Code of Conduct.  The school put the student in an alternative setting for the remainder of the school year based on the student’s possession of a small pocket knife and some alcohol.  How would your district handle that?

The New Jersey case is a good illustration of the use of two of the tools in the Toolbox.  Since the knife had a blade of three inches, it qualified as a “dangerous weapon.” This means the school can use Tool #5—a Removal Due to Special Circumstances.  That removal could be for as many as 45 school days.

The tough guys in Jersey wanted to go further than that, though. So they also used Tool #6—a Disciplinary Change of Placement—to justify the removal for the rest of the year.  This is only available when the behavior is not a manifestation of disability.

When I do my Toolbox workshops I often ask principals what penalty would be imposed on a student who had possession of a small pocket knife at school.  Typically they tell me that if the student did not use or threaten to use the knife, the penalty would be very minor.

Principals should not get carried away with Tool #5.  It is the principal’s tool and the law authorizes a removal for up to 45 school days. But first, you should determine what your Code of Conduct says, and how your district has handled similar situations in the past.  So we should be careful when we say that Tool #5 authorizes principals to remove kids for up to 45 school days. A more accurate statement would be: The principal can remove the student for a period of time consistent with the Code of Conduct, not to exceed 45 school days.

The case is Ocean Township Board of Education v. E.R., decided by the federal court in New Jersey in 2014. We found it at 63 IDELR 16.


Tomorrow: Can you refuse to provide accommodations for kids in AP or Honors courses?