The Code of Conduct
Students deserve a safe, healthy, and welcoming learning environment in which to learn. To ensure this, all Boston public schools follow the BPS Code of Conduct. At each school, teachers and parents also develop and follow School-Based Rules. A summary of the Code of Conduct follows. You should receive a copy of the School-Based Rules for your child’s school along with the Guide. They are both very important.
Visit bostonstudentrights.org and download the mobile app. Developed by students, it presents the Code of Conduct in a condensed, simplified format, plus information on student rights and responsibilities and legal aid resources.
The BPS Code of Conduct
Every school must follow the Boston Public Schools Code of Conduct. The Code lists rules that all students are expected to follow. If school-based rules conflict with the Code of Conduct, the Code applies.
The 2016 Code of Conduct emphasizes preventive and positive approaches that include instructive and restorative approaches to behavior. Every school has a multi-tiered system of support for student’s social, emotional, and behavioral needs. Students receive instruction in social and emotional skills and clear expectations through the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support process.
All progressive interactions and consequences aim to address the causes of misbehavior, resolve conflicts, meet students’ needs, and keep students in school. The spirit of the revised code emphasizes non-exclusionary practices before considering exclusion whenever possible. In accordance with the Code of Conduct, all disciplinary responses must be applied respectfully, fairly, consistently, and protect students’ rights to instructional time whenever possible.
School-Based Rules and the Code of Conduct apply to students' behavior while they are in school, at school-sponsored activities, and on their way to and from school (on the school bus, at the bus stop, on the MBTA, and walking).
Don’t Miss Out on School Privileges!
Students have the opportunity to participate in many special school functions and activities, such as field trips, celebrations, performances, class days, proms, and graduation ceremonies, among others. Participation in such activities is a privilege to be earned—not a “right.” A student may lose these privileges by violating school rules or the Code of Conduct or by engaging in unlawful activities outside of school. The principal or Head of School has the authority to limit or deny a student’s participation in such special functions and activities.
Denial of Transportation
If a student endangers his or her own safety or the safety of others while on a school bus or public transit, the principal or Head of School may deny school-provided transportation to the student. The student will be suspended only from the bus route on which the incident occurred.
Transportation may be denied for up to three days without a hearing. Denial of transportation for four or more days in a row, or more than six days in a marking period, requires a hearing. In all cases, the principal or Head of School must inform the parent before keeping the student off the bus. The student is expected to come to school on the days when he or she is not allowed on the bus unless the student also has been suspended from school. A student who has door-to-door service in their IEP cannot be denied transportation for more than ten days unless a Manifestation Determination Meeting has been held.
Under state law and School Committee policy, school staff may not punish a student by hitting, pushing, or any use of physical force. School staff may use reasonable physical force to restrain a student only if (1) non-physical intervention would be ineffective or has been ineffective, and/or (2) they believe the student’s actions may result in physical injury to the student or other people. The use of any restraint must be documented and forwarded (within 24 hours) to the principal/Head of School. Any school employee who uses unreasonable force will be subject to discipline.
Students with Disabilities
The Code of Conduct applies to all students. There is a specific procedure, however, for disciplining students with disabilities. You can find this procedure on the BPS website. It is described in Superintendent’s Circular SPE-15. This can be downloaded and printed. If you prefer, your child’s school can give you a copy of this document upon request. This procedure is also included in the Parent’s Rights brochure that you receive with your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
No student with disabilities may be suspended for more than ten cumulative school days in the school year except as provided by federal laws and regulations. This includes a meeting to determine whether the student’s disability may be the cause of the behavior.
How Parents Can Help
As a parent, you can help your child follow the rules and help keep the school safe by:
- sharing the responsibility for the behavior of your child in school, at school-sponsored activities, and on the way to and from school
- preparing your child to take responsibility for attending school and for his or her own behavior
- fostering in your child positive attitudes toward himself or herself, others, the school, and the community
- communicating with school staff about your child
- attending individual or group conferences
- recognizing that school staff members have the right to enforce the policies of the Boston School Committee
- behaving in a civil and non-disruptive manner when visiting the school
- being sure your child brings to school only those things that are appropriate in a school setting.
Suspension and Expulsion
Suspension means a student is not allowed to attend school for a limited number of school days. For a student 15 years old or younger, short-term suspension can be up to three school days in a row. Please note that students in grades K0-2 cannot be suspended. For a student 16 years old or older, the suspension can be up to five consecutive school days. Long-term suspension is an exclusion for more than ten consecutive or cumulative school days.
The Suspension Process and Due Process. Before a principal or Head of School can suspend a student, he or she must hold a hearing at the school and invite the student and the student’s parent/guardian. The school must give the parent/guardian written notice of the hearing in English and the language spoken in the home. At the hearing, the principal or Head of School hears the evidence and decides whether the student should be suspended. If the student and the parent/guardian disagree with the suspension, they may appeal the decision to the Superintendent’s Hearing Officer within 10 school days.
In some instances, a student may be suspended before a hearing. This emergency removal can be imposed only when a student is alleged to have committed a suspendable offense where the student’s presence poses a continuing danger to persons or property or seriously disrupts teaching and learning, and only for the rest of that school day. Before an emergency removal, the principal or Head of School must try to notify the parent. A hearing must be held at a later date.
Expulsion is the removal of a student from the school premises, regular classroom activities, and school activities for more than ninety school days, indefinitely, or permanently. Students may be expelled for possession of a dangerous weapon, possession of a controlled substance, assault on educational staff, or a felony charge or conviction.
The Expulsion Process, Step by Step
- In some cases, when a student commits an expellable offense, the principal or Head of School may order an emergency suspension for safety reasons.
- Next, in most cases, the principal/Head of School or another administrator holds a suspension hearing and suspends the student. The purpose of the suspension is to remove the student from school while the principal/Head of School prepares for the possible expulsion hearing. Therefore, a suspension hearing does not need to take place if the student is already out of school for legal or medical reasons.
- During the suspension, the principal/Head of School begins procedures to hold a formal expulsion hearing. He or she also schedules the student for assignment to Succeed Boston (described below). The parent must receive notice of the expulsion hearing in writing, in the language of the home. If the parent is not able to attend, he or she may request one postponement.
- At the expulsion hearing, the principal or Head of School listens to witnesses and examines the evidence. The student or parent/guardian may bring an advocate or lawyer to the hearing. If needed, the school will provide an interpreter for parents who have limited English-speaking skills. The school must make a recording of the hearing and make the recording available to the parent or student upon request.
- Following the hearing, the principal or Head of School sends the written recommendation to the appropriate Administrator of Operations for review of due process. If the principal or Head of School decides to expel a student, the student and parent/guardian must be notified in writing.
Appealing a Suspension or Expulsion. If the student and the parent/guardian disagree with the expulsion, they may appeal the decision to the superintendent (617-635-9057), or someone named by the superintendent, within ten school days.
During and After the Expulsion Period. During a period of long-term suspension or expulsion, BPS assigns the student to an alternative middle school or high school program or another elementary school. When a student’s period of expulsion has ended, the parent/guardian (or student age 18 or older) must go to a BPS Welcome Center and re-enroll the student in the Boston Public Schools. The student will not be reassigned to the school from which he or she was expelled unless the principal or Head of School has recommended this at the time of the expulsion.
Succeed Boston in Roslindale serves students who have violated the most serious BPS Code of Conduct infractions. While progressive measures are always recommended, repeated serious violations of the Code result in referral to Succeed Boston. This department provides individual and group counseling services and uses restorative and trauma-informed practices that allow students to maintain academic progress, providing students with the decision-making and social-emotional skills they need to assess risk, consider potential consequences, and improve decision-making. A student is assigned to either the short term program for 3 to 5 days or the Long Term Middle School program for 11 days until the end of the school year. While attendance at the short term program is now considered a suspension, this program is recommended as an alternative to suspensions at home. The Saturday Civil Rights Program, a partnership with the BPS Office of Equity, is a one-day alternative to suspension for students who have been involved in bias-based conduct (based upon one’s membership in a protected class, such as ethnicity, gender, race, disability, military status, religion, or sexual orientation). The program, available by referral only, provides group instruction and targeted individualized curricula, counseling and reflection, to assist students in learning about the history of civil rights, the impact of hate speech, and the harm and impact it has on others.
A student may be expelled for up to one calendar year only for these serious offenses:
- possession of a dangerous weapon, including, but not limited to, a gun or a knife
- possession of a controlled substance, including but not limited to marijuana, cocaine, and heroin
- assault on school staff
- felony charge or conviction
A student may be suspended for these serious offenses:
- sexual assault
- assault and battery on any person causing physical injury unless necessary for self-defense
- endangering the physical safety or mental/emotional health of another by use of threats of force communicated by any means, including by technology. This includes hazing, graffiti, bullying, and cyberbullying.
- possession of a dangerous weapon prohibited by law, or of an object of no reasonable use
- use of any object in a dangerous or threatening manner
- setting or attempting to set a fire on school property, at school-sponsored activities, or on school-provided transportation
- damaging or stealing private property or school property
- making a bomb threat or pulling/reporting a false fire alarm
- violating the civil rights of others
- sexually harassing another person
- using racial or ethnic slurs or obscene language
- breaking the rules for acceptable use of email and the Internet
- disrupting school or classroom activity, including unauthorized use of cell phones
- being in an area of the school building that is off-limits to students
- refusing to identify himself or herself
- tampering with school records
- leaving the school without permission or cutting classes excessively
- failing to attend or to consistently attend the BPS Succeed Boston Center without a reasonable excuse, or violating Section 7 of the Code of Conduct while attending the center.
In certain circumstances, a student may be indefinitely suspended or expelled for conduct unrelated to school or school activities, such as when the student is charged with or convicted of a felony and the principal or Head of School determines the student’s continued presence would disrupt the school.
NOTE: The list above is meant as a guide only. Please refer to the Code of Conduct, Section 7, for a complete list of offenses and penalties.
Where to Find the Code of Conduct
- The BPS Code of Conduct
- Visit bostonstudentrights.org and download the mobile app. Developed by students, it presents the Code of Conduct in a condensed, simplified format, plus information on student rights and responsibilities and legal aid resources.
- Contact any BPS Welcome Center or the Superintendent’s Office (617-635-9050 or email@example.com) to request a printed copy.
The Code of Conduct is available in English, Arabic, Cabo Verdean Creole, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
If there are any questions or concerns around the Code of Conduct, specifically emergency removal, due process, or suspension/expulsion appeals, contact the Operational Superintendent’s Office at 617-635-9057.