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Governor Signs Student Discipline Law

On August 6, 2012, Governor Patrick signed a new law overhauling the state statutes that govern student discipline in public schools.  The law, entitled, “An Act Relative to Student Access to Educational Services and Exclusion from School,” is set to take effect July 1, 2014.

Even though the law is will not take effect for some time, school administrators should be aware of the following changes:

  1. Schools will be required to continue to provide educational services to students who are suspended or expelled.
    2. Students who are suspended from school for 10 or fewer consecutive days will have the opportunity to make academic progress, to make up assignments, earn credits for homework, quizzes, exams, papers and projects that were missed during the period of suspension.
    3. Students who are suspended or expelled will be provided educational service plans that may include tutoring, alternative placement, Saturday school, and online or distance learning.
    4. Costs associated with alternative educational services will be eligible for reimbursement under the DESE Circuit Breaker Program.
    5. Principals will be obligated to exercise discretion and consider ways to engage the students in the learning process and avoid using expulsion as a consequence until other remedies and consequences have been employed.
    6. Students will have the right to appeal a principal’s suspension of more than ten days (consecutive or cumulative) or expulsion to the superintendent.
    7. Students may not be suspended or expelled for a time period exceeding 90 school days.  This limitation, however, does not apply to offenses described by M.G.L. c. 71, sec. 37H or 37H1/2.

This law also requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to provide the legislature with a report on the expected cost of implementation by November 30, 2013 as well as develop regulations and provide models for intermediary steps prior to the use of suspension or expulsion.

Please note that this the changes listed above are highlights from the new law.  Administrators are encouraged to read the Chapter 222 of the Session Laws in its entirety and consider the effects that the changes will have on their discipline code.