Section 37H, section 37H(1/2), and section 37H(3/4) of chapter 71 of the Massachusetts General Laws and M.G.L. chapter 76, section 21 are the main statutes regarding discipline of public schools students. The related Code of Massachusetts Regulations is 603 C.M.R. 53.00. There are separate but related laws that apply to special education students.
Section 37H contains a number of provisions. First, the statute authorizes every school district to have a student handbook setting forth the rules pertaining to the conduct of students. Second, the statute requires that students be subject to expulsion or suspension for being on school premises or at school-sponsored or school-related events in possession of a dangerous weapon or a controlled substance, or assaulting educational staff on school premises or at school-sponsored or school-related events. Third, the statute outlines procedures for a hearing before the principal and any subsequent appeal to the superintendent.
Section 37H(1/2) provides that students can be suspended if charged with a felony in court and the student’s continued presence at school would have a substantial detrimental effect on the general welfare of the school, and that they can be expelled if convicted or adjudicated delinquent of a felony in court and the student’s continued presence at school would have a substantial detrimental effect on the general welfare of the school. The statute outlines procedures for a hearing before the principal and any subsequent appeal to the superintendent.
Section 37H(3/4) covers all other disciplinary matters. The statute outlines procedures for a meeting or hearing with an administrator where any suspension or expulsion is considered and the process for any subsequent appeal to the superintendent. The statute requires the administrator to consider ways to re-engage the student in the learning process and avoid using expulsion as a consequence until other remedies and consequences have been employed. Under this statute only, no student can be suspended or expelled from a school or school district for longer than 90 school days (beginning the first day the student is removed from an assigned school building).
If a student is suspended or expelled under any of these laws, a school district must continue to provide educational services to the student.
Within 10 days of a special education student being removed from his placement due to a violation of the student code of conduct, the special education Team must meet for a manifestation determination. The Team must decide whether the conduct in question was caused by or had a direct and substantial relationship to the child’s disability, or if the conduct in question was the direct result of the school’s failure to implement the IEP. If so, the school must return the student to the placement from which he was removed, conduct a functional behavioral assessment, and implement or modify a behavior intervention plan.
School personnel may remove a student to an interim alternative educational setting (IAES) for not more than 45 school days even if the behavior is determined to be a manifestation of the child’s disability if the student carries or possesses a weapon to or at school, on school premises, or to or at a school function; possesses, uses, sells, or solicits illegal drugs while at school, on school premises, or at a school function; or inflicts serious bodily injury upon another person while at school, on school premises, or at a school function.
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