Law Changes School Discipline Policies
The passage of Senate Bill 12-046 in the final days of the 2012 legislative session called for several changes to schools’ conduct codes. For Jeffco Public Schools, those changes can be found on the district’s website.
The bill mostly gives schools direction on changing the ways discipline is approached within the education system.
The three major areas the Legislature wanted to address in the bill were eliminating the zero-tolerance policy, reducing police referrals, and giving principals and school districts more flexibility to make disciplinary decisions on a case-by-case basis.
“We still have some discretion about how we implement that law, but it gives us direction,” said John Peery, Jeffco Public School’s discipline administrator.
According to Peery, the language used in the conduct code has changed in some places from using the word “shall” to the word “may.”
The district’s zero-tolerance policy on weapons has been amended, except for the regulation concerning possession of a firearm, loaded or unloaded, on school grounds. That is still grounds for a one-year expulsion as mandated by the federal government.
Other weapons, like knives and BB guns, may be grounds for expulsion, depending on the circumstances surrounding their presence on school property.
When a principal is asked to make a decision on suspension or expulsion, he or she has a few issues to consider: the age of the student, disciplinary history of the student, whether the student has a disability, the seriousness of the violation, whether the violation threatened the safety of any student or staff member and whether lesser interventions would properly address the violation.
Peery said maintaining consistency of discipline between schools and principals is of the utmost importance to the district. Another major change to the conduct code is the penalty for students who purchase, possess, use and/or are under the influence of illegal drugs, alcohol or illegal over-the-counter drugs, and for possession of drug paraphernalia for their third offense.
Instead of stating that a student “shall be” expelled, the code now says the student “may be” expelled upon the third offense and all subsequent offenses within any three-year period. If not expelled, the student will have a minimum suspension of 10 days for the offense and any other subsequent offenses.
Before a decision to expel a student is made, the student and/or parent will be offered the opportunity to participate in the alternative to expulsion.
On their first offense, students will be suspended for 10 days, and for second offenders every subsequent offense.
The code’s section on tobacco products was expanded to include prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes on school grounds. A link to the 2012-13 conduct code can be found at www.jeffcopublicschools.org/current_parent_student.
Superintendent Cindy Stevenson wrote in an introductory letter for the new code, “Learning can best take place in a safe and orderly environment. In Jeffco Public Schools, we believe students and staff must treat each other with dignity. Mutual respect is the foundation for creating a climate where we can accomplish our mission: ‘To provide a quality education that prepares all children for a successful future.’”
Parents and students with questions about changes to the conduct code are asked to talk with their school’s principal.