Office of Student Discipline
Welcome to the Office of Student Discipline
The discipline office manages the Code of Conduct, provides discipline support to schools and oversees the disciplinary hearing process. The office also reviews and responds to appeals for disciplinary hearing decisions, bullying and harassment findings.
Students who engage in behaviors that endanger school safety or disrupt the educational experience of others may be subject to discipline in accord with the Code of Conduct.
The School District of Philadelphia is committed to achieving educational equity and reducing disproportionality in discipline.
Parents/Guardians who have any questions or concerns related to discipline are encouraged to contact the school principal and/or the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
Resources for Families
Introduction to the Code of Conduct
The School District of Philadelphia is committed to creating and maintaining well-resourced and safe school environments conducive to teaching and learning. We strive to develop meaningful partnerships with parents/guardians and families, so we can work together to encourage academic, social and emotional growth in all of our students. Our goal is to ensure that all of our students have the necessary resources to graduate and will be ready to succeed as fully engaged citizens of the world.
The School District of Philadelphia provides alternatives to exclusionary discipline in an effort to eliminate disproportionality in discipline practices.
The purpose of the Code of Conduct is to:
- outline clear expectations for all school community members
- provide information around student and parent/guardian rights and supports
- equip staff with guidelines for addressing student behavior so that our students and school communities can feel safe and grow to be successful.
Section 1310-A of the Pennsylvania Public School Code established the Office of Safe Schools Advocate (OSSA). In 2001, the OSSA was created in the School District of Philadelpha (SDP) to assist students who are victims of violent acts.
OSSA will attend disciplinary hearings and support identified victims.
Law students available to support families through discipline cases. Learn more about their work by clicking on the button below.
According to Pennsylvania law, suspension is defined as the denial to a student of the right to attend school and to take part in any school function for any period of up to ten (10) days.
Suspensions must be preceded by notification to the student and parent/guardian in writing. For the purposes of The School District of Philadelphia’s Student Code of Conduct, suspensions comprise three categories: in-school, short-term, and long-term.
In-school Suspension is an exclusion from a classroom for disciplinary purposes that allow a student to remain under the direct supervision of school personnel.
Direct supervision means school personnel are physically in the same location as students under their supervision.
Kindergarten, first, and second grade students may NOT be suspended unless their actions result in serious bodily injury. Serious bodily injury is defined as bodily injury that involves (1) a substantial risk of death; (2) extreme physical pain; (3) protracted and obvious disfigurement; or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a body part, organ, or mental faculty. In order to prove serious bodily injury, the school must provide medical documentation to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to determine if it constitutes serious bodily injury. Please consult with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities as well as the assigned Assistant Superintendent before issuing any suspension for a student in grades kindergarten, first and second. In lieu of suspension, the student must be referred to the counselor for a meeting to discuss appropriate behavioral or behavioral health interventions and supports.
- Short-term Suspension is an exclusion from school and/or any school activity or function for a period of three or fewer school days. Students who are suspended must meet with the principal or designee prior to the suspension. During the conference, the student has the right to the procedures described under Student Conference Procedures outlined in this code of student conduct.
- Long-term Suspension is an exclusion from school and/or any school activity or function for a period of four to ten school days. Students who are given a long-term suspension are to participate in a student conference and a parent/guardian conference. Prior approval by the deputy chief of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities and/or the assigned Assistant Superintendent is required for all suspensions exceeding three school days.
At parent conferences, parents/ guardians can expect that school administrators will adhere to the following protocol:
- Notice of a conference must be provided to the parent/guardian in their preferred language in writing and either hand-delivered to the home, sent by certified mail, faxed, emailed, or communicated by other reasonable means.
- When a student is suspended, a parent/guardian conference must be held no later than day three of the suspension.
- At the conference, the parent/guardian or caregiver may request to review and have a copy of the student’s records and any witness statements, with other student names and information redacted. Interpretation will be provided if requested. (Photographs and video recordings of incidents may be shown to parents/guardians but copies will not be provided.)
- School administrators will discuss the student’s behavior and ways to modify the behavior.
- School administrators will inform the parent/guardian of any further disciplinary action and provide an overview of the parent/guardian’s due process rights regarding the disciplinary action, including the right to view evidence.
- Schoolwork for students with more than a four (4) day suspension must be provided to the parent/guardian at the conference, which is due upon reinstatement.
- Schools must make every attempt to engage a guardian or parent when the student returns after a suspension. Students may not be kept out of school as a result of the parent or guardian’s inability to meet with school staff.
Schools may request an interim placement (temporary school assignment) for the limited situations where the school has documentation that a regular education student’s continued presence poses a threat to the school community. If an interim assignment is granted by the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, a hearing must be held as soon as possible after that assignment. For a special education student, interim assignments will only be granted if the incident involves weapons, drugs, or serious bodily injury.
Note: Please refer to the Discipline for Students with Disabilities section for exceptions and additional information regarding discipline protocols for students with disabilities.
- Referrals will not be made for disciplinary transfers or expulsion for students in kindergarten through grade 5.
- Students in kindergarten through grade 5 who are exhibiting a pattern or disruptive behavior(s) and/ or committing serious violation(s) of the Code of Conduct are referred to the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) process.
- Students in grades 6 through 12 who are exhibiting a pattern of disruptive behavior(s) and/or committing serious violation(s) of the code of conduct may be referred to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities for a student disciplinary hearing if school administrators determine that level of discipline is warranted.
- Students who are referred for a disciplinary hearing receive full due process to determine whether the student will be transferred to a disciplinary school. Disciplinary schools provide high- quality alternative education programs and supports to help students achieve their intellectual and social potential.
- English Learners (“ELs”) cannot be placed at disciplinary schools that cannot meet their language instruction needs. ELs must be taught by qualified teachers with ESL Teaching Credentials using materials that are appropriate for their ages and levels of proficiency. Students transitioning from a mental health or residential placement may not be placed at an alternative education program unless the student meets the definition of a disruptive student.
- Students referred for a hearing will be suspended and provided the procedures indicated in the suspension procedures section of the code of student conduct. The parent will receive written notice in their preferred language of the suspension and referral for disciplinary transfer prior to the hearing. The school must complete a Behavior Performance Review (BPR) for regular education students or a Manifestation Determination for special education students or students with a 504 plan and share the results of the review at the parent/guardian conference. When a hearing is not scheduled during the period of a student’s suspension, the student has the right to return to school pending the outcome of the hearing, unless the behavior of the student continues to create such a risk of harm to the school community. In this case, then the school may request an interim placement. (See above for details of that process).
- Disciplinary hearings will be conducted by an impartial hearing officer. During the hearing process, parents/guardians may oppose the request for their student’s removal from the school. Students and parents/guardians going through the disciplinary hearing process have the following rights:
- At the parent conference, you may request a copy of your child’s records and any evidence the school plans to present which will be provided to you within 48 hours.
- An interpreter will be provided if requested for the student or parent/guardian.
- You may bring your own witnesses and/or character statements to the hearing.
- You may bring a representative and/or advocate.
- You may ask questions of the school witnesses and present evidence of your own if it relates to the incident.
- The hearing officer will issue a decision letter within 5 school days from the date of the hearing.
- You may submit an appeal if you are not in agreement with the hearing decision. Appeals must be submitted within 15 calendar days from the date on the hearing decision letter, either in person or via the firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
- All hearings are audio-recorded. After the hearing, you may request a copy of the recording which will be provided to you within 48 hours.
According to Pennsylvania law, expulsion is defined as an exclusion from school and any school activities for more than ten (10) school days. Students who have committed an offense subject to expulsion will also be suspended and afforded the procedures found in the suspension section of the code of student conduct.
The formal expulsion hearing process includes the following due process requirement:
- Notification of the violation(s) in writing by certified mail to the student’s parent/guardian in their preferred language.
- At least three days’ notice of the time and place of the hearing, which shall include a copy of this policy, hearing procedures, and notice of the right to representation by legal counsel.
- A student may request the rescheduling of the hearing when he/she demonstrates good cause for an extension.
- The hearing shall be private unless the student or parent/guardian requests a public hearing.
- Representation by counsel at the parent/guardian expense and parent/guardian may attend the hearing.
- Disclosure of the names of witnesses against the student and copies of their written statements or affidavits.
- The right to request that witnesses against the student appear in person and answer questions or be cross-examined.
- The right to testify, make arguments and present witnesses on the student’s behalf.
- A written or audio record shall be kept of the hearing and a copy made available to the student at the student’s expense, or at no charge if the student is indigent.
- The hearing shall be held within 15 school days of the notice of charges, unless a delay is mutually agreed to by both parties or is delayed by:
- The need for laboratory reports from law enforcement agencies.
- Evaluations or other court or administrative proceedings are pending due to the student invoking their rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
- Delay is necessary due to the condition or best interests of the victim in cases of juvenile or criminal court involving sexual assault or serious bodily injury.
- Notice of a right to appeal the results of the hearing shall be provided to the student and the parent/guardian with the expulsion decision in their preferred language.
If a student is expelled by the school board, the parent/guardian of the student has 30 days to provide written documentation that the student is in another educational program. If they are unable to find an alternative educational program, the School District of Philadelphia will provide for the student’s education.
A student who has been permanently expelled from the School District of Philadelphia by the affirmative vote of a majority of the school board may apply for readmission.
The school board delegate’s complete authority for all readmission decisions to the Chief Executive Officer/Superintendent or his/her designee. Temporarily expelled students need not apply for readmission because they are automatically readmitted to The School District of Philadelphia at the end of the expulsion period. Readmission decisions are final and not subject to review by appeal to the school board or the courts.
For information on expunging expulsion records see the Student and Parent/Guardian Rights section of the Code of Conduct.
- Pennsylvania’s Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth Program (AEDY) provides a combination of intense, individual academic instruction and behavior modification counseling in an alternative setting to assist students in returning successfully to the regular education setting.
- AEDY Transition Programs provide education to students in grades 6-12 who have been removed from the regular education setting for certain disciplinary reasons. Students must have a hearing prior to placement unless an immediate transfer is warranted because of a serious situation. The school programs help students work on their behavior while at the same time continuing with their education.
- The School District and the AEDY Program work with families to create behavioral goals based on his/her reason for placement and assessments. Students receive a formal periodic review (progress review) before their presumptive exit date. Once behavioral goals are met, students prepare to transition to the regular education setting with a transition plan. Placements in AEDY Transition Programs are temporary. Students may only remain until they have met their behavioral goals.