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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

Students! Know Your Rights: Discipline

 
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Discipline

In Utah, it is recognized that every student in public school should have the chance to learn in an environment which is safe, conducive to the learning process, and free from unnecessary disruption. Therefore the school board has adopted conduct and discipline policies which they require each public school to send to students when they enroll. These policies must also be posted in plain view. If any changes are made during the school year those changes must be given to students, as well as posted in the school where everyone can see them. 97

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Suspension and expulsion

 

High School Students - Are You Facing Suspension or Expulsion? (4/26/13) - This brochure designed by the Civil Rights Clinic at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law explains what your rights are when facing disciplinary action at school.

Visit the Civil Rights Clinic website >>

 

When a student violates school rules or school policy, the consequences might range from a simple warning to permanent expulsion. School policy must explain which offenses may result in suspension or expulsion. 98

Conduct:

Utah has listed conduct that may result in a suspension or expulsion as frequent or flagrant willful disobedience, defiance of proper authority, or disruptive behavior, including:

  • The use of foul, profane, vulgar, or abusive language;
  • The willful destruction or defacing of school property;
  • Any behavior which poses an immediate and significant threat to the welfare, safety or morals of other students or school personnel;
  • The possession, control or use of an alcoholic beverage; or, the possession; or,
  • The use of pornographic material on school grounds.

The conduct that requires suspension or expulsion is any serious violation affecting another student or staff member or any serious violation occurring in a school building, in or on school property, or in conjunction with any school activity, including:

  • Possession, control, or actual or threatened use of a real weapon, explosive or noxious or flammable material;
  • Use of a look-alike weapon with intent to intimidate or disrupt school;
  • Sale, control or distribution of a drug or controlled substance or drug paraphernalia;
  • The use of force or threatened use of force, which if committed by an adult would be a felony or class A misdemeanor.

Procedures:

If a school wants to suspend or expel a student — punishments that usually result in a loss of credit for tests, assignments, or entire classes — the school officials must follow certain procedures. 99

Under Utah law a suspension:

  • may last for up to10 school days if imposed by the principal; or,
  • up to a year if imposed by district superintendent;

If a student is suspended the following procedure is required:

  • The parent or guardian must be immediately notified of the suspension;
  • They must be notified of the grounds for the suspension;
  • As well as the period of time for the suspension;
  • The time and place for the parent or guardian to meet with the school official to review the suspension.

The school may immediately suspend students who are continually disruptive or present a threat of danger, with the notice and the hearing of the suspension following as soon as possible. The school cannot suspend students for nonspecific offenses, so there must be a policy readily available that details which offenses are punishable by suspension.

Under Utah law an expulsion:

  • is mandatory for one year if the offense involves possession of a firearm, look-alike weapon, explosive or flammable material, or knife at school;
  • Requires that the student appear before the superintendent, or designee, within 45 days after the expulsion to determine any conditions for the student’s return to school, the actual length of the expulsion, and if the student should be placed in an alternative school. 100

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Permanent expulsion

A superintendent may permanently expel students who are age sixteen or older if they already have a juvenile record. The school can also permanently expel students who commit an act that would be a criminal offense if tried as an adult. A student may be denied admission in a public school if the student has been expelled from any other school during the past 12 months. 101

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Appealing a suspension or expulsion

You and your parent or guardian can challenge your suspension or expulsion at an appeal hearing. After considering your case, the hearing official may decide to keep, drop, or change the suspension or expulsion.

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Disabled students

If you have a disability, you are entitled to other procedural protections in the event that your school tries to suspend or expel you. These protections include a “stay put” provision that requires that a student remain in school while waiting for a hearing. All provisions can be found in the federal Education of the Handicapped Act. 102 If the school has started disciplinary action, you should consult an attorney familiar with these federally mandated provisions.

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Clearing student records

Once you have reached the age of twenty-two, or if the school revokes your permanent expulsion, all school districts that have records regarding your permanent expulsion must remove and destroy reference to it. At this time you can send a written request to the superintendent of the school to verify that the records have been destroyed. 103

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Corporal punishment

Corporal punishment is the use of physical punishment, such as paddling, in schools. Utah schools may only use corporal punishment with prior written parental consent. Schools may use reasonable force to restrain a student who is a threat to himself, others, or school property. What is “reasonable” depends on the circumstances. 104

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