In addition to academic preparation, schools are responsible for instilling in our youth the behaviors that are required to sustain society. To achieve this goal, schools must identify what is acceptable behavior and what is unacceptable behavior. The latter would be incomplete without also specifying what consequences these bring. To a great degree, the level of effectiveness of this approach determines how successfully a school can teach academics.
Schools generally define and shape desirable behavior within the framework of a code of conduct. Consequences and punishments for unacceptable behaviors are specified in a discipline policy. Neither by itself is sufficient to completely address the spectrum of student behavior. Merely stating desired behavior has no provision for inevitable misconduct; having only a discipline code dwells on the negative and does not provide a positive direction.
Georgia law (O.G.C.A. § 20-2-735) requires that all local boards of education adopt a student code of conduct including standards of student behavior and disciplinary action for students who violate the code of conduct. Georgia law also requires school systems to provide an opportunity for parental involvement in developing and updating student codes of conduct.
Codes of conduct specify behavior that is accepted or prohibited in the school as well as in any setting that is related to the school. Codes of conduct generally state the behavior expected to be demonstrated by the student.
Discipline policies outline consequences/punishments that will occur in response to specific misbehavior.
The code of conduct and discipline policies may be separate documents, but generally are integrated into one document.
Elements of an Effective Code of Conduct
- Establish expected behavior. Codes of conduct should enumerate those behaviors that the student is expected to demonstrate. These behaviors may become the system's/school's core values. Generally codes of conduct state that students are expected to:
- Demonstrate respect for self and others.
- Demonstrate courtesy to others.
- Behave in a responsible manner.
- Attend class regularly.
- Be prepared for class.
- Take seriously the course of study.
- Dress appropriately.
- Cooperate with school officials.
- Respect other's property.
- Avoid violation of student code of conduct.
- Encourage parent, community, staff, and student support. Community and parent/council support of the system and its discipline code is critical. The system must ask parents, and may wish to include staff, students, and community representatives to serve on the team developing the code. This cross-section of the community will allow for broad representation of ideas and values. Codes must also specify how communications with parents and the community will be maintained throughout the discipline process. Once completed, the code should be shared with all interested parties and any feedback should be given serious consideration.
- Are written in easy-to-understand terms. Write codes in clear and concise language identifying unacceptable behavior and specify the consequence that will be administered for engaging in the behavior.
Clear and concise codes are essential for understanding and support of an orderly school by the community and parents. Clear and concise codes also help teachers and other school personnel who are responsible for administering them to act swiftly and with authority. An example of a code statement is as follows:
Include consequences for unacceptable behaviors, as defined by the local system, from minor to severe. Schools must facilitate the development of self-discipline in students. Neglecting to address minor unacceptable behaviors such as rudeness and other disruptive actions may lead to more serious behaviors. Codes that focus on one or the other may undermine the development of self-discipline in students. For schools to maintain a safe and orderly environment, systems must handle the full range of unacceptable behaviors.
Match consequences with the severity of the misbehavior. Codes should list separately minor and severe misbehavior with the resulting disciplinary action. Codes constructed in this format allow students to immediately identify the range of actions, from loss of privileges to expulsion, that may result from misbehavior.
Require prompt removal of dangerous and chronically disruptive students from the learning environment. Georgia law authorizes teachers to remove from his or her classroom any student who repeatedly or substantially interferes with the teacher's ability to communicate effectively with the students in the class or with the ability of the other students to learn. When the student's behavior violates the code of conduct, steps are outlined as to the procedure schools must use to notify parents and obtain appropriate placement of the student. Appropriate placement may range from suspension to participation in an alternative school.
Provide for the annual review and updating of the code of conduct. Based on the statistical data collected regarding discipline, the school should review the code to determine if corrections, additions or deletions are necessary. Data and feedback of staff, parents/council, and students are critical to keeping the code of conduct relevant to the student body. Sharing the data with the community and parents ensures the perception of a safe and orderly school.
Take into account any disability of the student when addressing misbehavior. All discipline of students with disabilities must follow the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, IDEA, and the Georgia Special Education rules.
- Behavior: Destruction of school property.
- Consequence: Parent conference; After-school detention; Assignment to In-School Suspension.
- Student codes of conduct/discipline policies shall identify consequences to address specific misbehavior as specified by law (O.C.G.A. § 20-2-751.5).
Guidelines for Developing Model Codes of Conduct, Model Behavior Support Process, Model Progressive Discipline Process and Model Parental Involvement Process