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School Discipline

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) schools are governed by discipline regulations that set forth the types of discipline, the punishment for various offenses, and the procedure for imposing those punishments.

Public charter schools or private schools may develop their own discipline rules and do not need to follow DCPS regulations.

Principles of DCPS student discipline
DCPS revised its discipline code in 2009 and the revised code better reflects several principles:

Out-of-school punishments should only be used for very serious infractions. Suspensions and expulsions tend not to help the individual student change their behavior. Rather, the student takes the bad behavior into the community, falls behind academically, and returns to school ready to repeat the cycle.

Schools should impose punishments progressively. Schools should not jump to the most severe punishments but instead try to improve students’ behaviors through a variety of less punitive interventions.

Discipline should not interfere with instruction. When students are punished, they maintain the right to an instruction and should be provided with class materials and the opportunity to do their school work.

Discipline rules should be enforced equitably. Similar conduct should lead to similar consequences. By placing student infractions in more tiers, each with a narrower range of consequences, the new regulations should lead to more equitable application.

Schools must teach all children. Schools may not give up on students or push students into another school by disciplining them. They must do what is necessary to teach all students, even those who present the most challenging behaviors.


Get more details below:

Types of discipline and offenses

Making the punishment fit the infraction

Disciplinary process

Disciplinary actions for students with disabilities

Keeping up with class while suspended or expelled


Types of Discipline
DCPS regulations define certain types of punishments:

  • Temporary removal of student from classroom: Removal from class for up to one-half of a school day during which time the student must be supervised and provided with instructional materials.
  • In-school disciplinary action: Punishments that include after-school detention, loss of privileges such as recess, exclusion from extracurricular activities, written reflection, conflict resolution, mediation, or similar actions of short duration that do not result in the student’s loss of academic instruction time.
  • On-site short-term suspension: In-school suspension of 1-3 school days for elementary students and 1-5 school days for secondary students.
  • Off-site short-term suspension: Out-of-school suspension of 1-3 school days for elementary students and 1-5 school days for secondary students.
  • Medium-term suspension: Out-of-school suspension for 6-10 school days.
  • Long-term suspension: Out-of-school suspension for 11-90 school days.
  • Expulsion: The denial of the right of a student to attend any DCPS school or program except alternative educational settings for one calendar year.

Types of Offenses
DCPS regulations place student offenses in five tiers, ranging from least to most serious.

Tier 1 infractions, which can lead to punishments including verbal redirection, calls home, parent-teacher conferences, behavior contracts and in-school disciplinary action, include:

  • Attending class without required materials or assigned work
  • Disrupting classroom teaching
  • Impolite, discourteous, or disrespectful communication with peers or staff
  • Using obscenity or profanity with peers
  • Excessive noise
  • Inappropriate displays of affection
  • “Off-task behaviors that demonstrate disengagement from classroom learning”
  • Unexcused tardiness
  • Refusal to comply with staff instructions or school rules

Tier 2 infractions,
which can lead to punishments ranging from a verbal redirection to in-school disciplinary action, include:

  • Directing profanity or obscene/offensive gestures toward staff
  • Disruptive physical contact with other students
  • Leaving class without permission
  • Throwing objects that may cause injury
  • Unauthorized presence in hallways during class time
  • Unauthorized use of portable electronic devices during school hours
  • Unexcused absences from class or school
  • Documented pattern of persistent Tier 1 behavior

Tier 3 behaviors, which can lead to consequences ranging from verbal redirection to a 10-day out-of-school suspension, include:

  • Academic dishonesty
  • Bullying
  • Racial, sex, sexual orientation or other similar harassment
  • Behavior that demonstrates gang/neighborhood crew affiliation
  • Reckless behavior that may cause harm to self or others
  • Sexual acts on school premises or at school-related functions
  • Extortion
  • Fighting with no injury or weapon
  • Forgery
  • Gambling
  • Hazing
  • Inappropriate use of DCPS computer or network
  • Leaving school without permission
  • Lying to school staff
  • Seriously offensive or abusive language or gestures
  • Possession of instruments which could be used as weapons
  • Possession or distribution of obscene or pornographic material
  • Possession or use of tobacco
  • Posting or distributing material that is demeaning, humiliating or damaging to students and/or staff
  • Sale or distribution of any item without authorization
  • Trespassing
  • Unauthorized possession, use, or distribution of over-the-counter medication
  • Use of alcohol
  • Use of marijuana, controlled dangerous substances, or drug paraphernalia
  • Threatening person or property
  • Behavior that causes significant disruption to the academic environment or causes harm to self or others.
  • Documented pattern of persistent Tier 2 behavior.

Tier 4 infractions
automatically lead to out-of-school suspensions of one to 90 days. They include:

  • Activating a false alarm
  • Vandalism, destruction of property, or graffiti
  • Contaminating food
  • Theft of school or personal property without force
  • Fighting which creates substantial risk of or results n minor injury
  • Inciting others to violence or disruption
  • Interfering with school authorities or participating a major disruption of the school’s operation
  • Lewd or indecent public behavior or sexual misconduct
  • Persistent racial, sex, sexual orientation or similar harassment
  • Possession of a weapon or replica not subject to the Gun-Free Schools Act
  • Retaliation for reporting harassment and sexual harassment.
  • Sexual harassment
  • Tampering with an official school record.
  • Using an object to intimidate or threaten another individual
  • Behavior that causes disruption to the school operation, destroys school property, or causes significant harm to self or others
  • Documented pattern of persistent Tier 3 behavior.

Tier 5 behaviors
automatically lead to the most severe punishments – an out-of-school suspension for 11-90 days or expulsion.

  • “Exceptional misconduct” at other schools
  • Violations of the Gun-Free Schools Act
  • Arson
  • Assault with a weapon
  • Assault/physical attack on student or staff
  • Biohazard
  • Bomb threat
  • Causing serious disruption to the school’s computer system
  • Sexual assault or attempted sexual assault
  • Fighting which results in a serious physical injury
  • Participating in a group fight which was planned, causes major disruption to school day or results in substantial bodily injury
  • Possession of illegal or drug paraphernalia, regardless of the amount or type of drug
  • Possession of fireworks or explosives
  • Possession or distribution of alcohol
  • Selling or distribution of prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or imitation controlled substances.
  • Theft or attempted theft using force or threat of violence
  • Use or threatened use of any weapon
  • Using an object to injure another individual
  • Vandalism/destruction of property over $500
  • Behavior that is illegal, causes significant disruption to the school operation or causes substantial harm to self or others.
  • Documented pattern of Tier 4 behavior

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Making the punishment fit the infraction
Each tier lists a variety of possible punishments which may be applied to student infractions in that tier. The regulations also describe how schools are supposed to choose among different options:

  • Punishments should avoid disrupting students' education.
  • Schools must implement progressive discipline, beginning with the least severe punishment. Schools should not jump to the most severe punishment available for a first- or second-time infraction.
  • Schools should involve family members to help them understand the roots of a student's misbehavior.
  • Schools must consider possible prevention and remediation strategies before choosing what punishment to apply.
  • Schools must consider all extenuating circumstances before imposing the punishment of expulsion.


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Disciplinary process
If a student is going to be suspended or expelled, the following procedures apply:

  • The school must give written notice to the parent of the behavior at issue, the rule violated, and the punishment within one school day of the decision to impose the punishment.
  • The student must be given a conference with school officials prior to the disciplinary action. The conference should include a:
         o discussion the grounds for disciplinary action
         o an explanation of evidence and facts
         o an opportunity for student to present his/her version of the facts
         o a written decision regarding the disciplinary action and a statement informing the student and/or parent of rights
  • A parent may request a hearing within 2 school days of receipt of the findings and recommendations of the conference.
  • A hearing must be held within 1 day after a written notice is give to the parent (although the parent can request up to 3 extra days). The school has burden at the hearing to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the student did, in fact, commit the infraction. Students and parents have the right to present their own evidence. Decisions must be issued within 1 day of the hearing.
  • Students who face a long-term suspension or expulsion have an automatic hearing.

If the student is going to be expelled, the following extra procedures apply:

  • The DCPS Office of Youth Engagement must review and approve a school’s recommendation for expulsion within 5 days of the recommendation.
  • The student automatically has a hearing.
  • The Chancellor may change a decision regarding a proposed expulsion.


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Disciplinary actions for students with disabilities
Children who receive special education services have special protections regarding the disciplinary process. A disciplinary action excluding a child with disabilities from school for 10 days – either consecutive days or 10 cumulative days resulting from a “series of removals that constitute a pattern” – is considered a change in placement which necessitates a multi-disciplinary team meeting. At this meeting, also called a manifestation determination, the team must discuss whether the behavior which is the subject of the disciplinary action was a direct result of school’s failure to provide the child with an appropriate education or was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the child’s disability. If the team decides that the behavior is a manifestation of the child’s disability, the school cannot impose the same sanctions they would for a child without special needs. If the team determines behavior was not a manifestation of the disability, child can be disciplined the same as children without special needs.

If the parent disagrees with the outcome of the manifestation determination, he or she can request an expedited hearing. The child must remain in alternative interim placement until a hearing officer’s determination is issued.

The above protections apply not only to children who are in special education at the time of the disciplinary incident, but also for children with disabilities who are unidentified by the school system if:

  • a parent expressed concern in writing that child is in need of special education services or requested the child be tested
  • the behavior or performance of child demonstrates a need for services
  • a teacher or other school personnel ahs expressed concern about the behavior or performance of the child

If the alleged behavior involved use or threatened use of a weapon, possession or use of illegal drugs, or infliction of serious bodily harm to another at school, the student can be suspended for up to 45 days, even if the behavior is a manifestation of the student’s disability.


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Keeping up with class while suspended or expelled
Students have the right to an education -- even when they are suspended or expelled. Students suspended for up to 10 days have the right to an "Education Plan" to ensure they have the opportunity to keep up with class while they are suspended. Students suspended for 11 days or more or expelled have the right to attend an alternative educational setting.

At the end of an expulsion, schools should host a re-entry conference with the student.


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