Student Behavior and Discipline
The Behavior Matrix of the Code of Conduct provides definitions for behaviors that are considered dangerous and/or disruptive to the school learning environment and community. The behavior matrix also provides guidance as to the levels of interventions and consequences that school administrators can implement for specific violations.
The School District of Philadelphia is committed to achieving educational equity and reducing disproportionality in exclusionary discipline. Please click here to learn more about this commitment as well as the variety of interventions that schools are encouraged to utilize prior to and in addition to exclusion. It is expected that all schools follow the MTSS process to ensure students are receiving appropriate supports prior to a serious incident.
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.
According to Pennsylvania law, suspension is defined as the denial 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 Code of Conduct, suspensions comprise of 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 (SBI). In order to prove serious SBI, the school must provide medical documentation to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities (OSRR) to determine if it constitutes serious bodily injury. Please consult with the OSRR as well as the assigned Assistant Superintendent before issuing any suspension for a student in grades K-2. The student must be referred to the counselor for a meeting to discuss appropriate behavioral or behavioral health interventions and supports.
Students in 3rd through 12th grade may be suspended when they have violated the Code of Conduct and a suspension is deemed appropriate for the offense. Suspensions vary in length:
1. Short-term Suspension is an exclusion from school and/or any school activity or function for a period of one to three days.
2. 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 suspended must meet with the principal or designee prior to the suspension, unless it is clear that the health, safety, or welfare of the school community is compromised. During the conference, the student should be given a suspension notice. The parent/guardian must also be notified and a parent conference should be scheduled before or upon the student’s reinstatement to school after suspension.
Parent Conference Procedures
At parent conferences, parents/guardians can expect that school administrators will adhere to the following protocol:
1. 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 mail, faxed, emailed, or communicated by other reasonable means.
2. 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.
3. School administrators will discuss the challenging behavior/incident that led to the suspension
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
Disciplinary Hearing Process
Disciplinary Hearing Referrals only apply to 6th Grade through 12th Grade students. Kindergarten through 5th Grade students cannot be referred for a disciplinary hearing, including lateral and Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth (AEDY) transfers.
Students 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. Prior to making a referral, schools must complete a Behavior Performance Review (BPR) for regular education students or a Manifestation Determination for students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan and share the results of the review at the parent/guardian conference. If the behavior is deemed a manifestation of the student’s disability or if the student is “thought to be” to have a disability, schools cannot move forward with a discipline hearing.
Students referred for a hearing will be suspended and provided the procedures indicated in the suspension procedures section of the Code of Conduct. The parent/guardian will receive written notice in their preferred language of the suspension and referral for disciplinary transfer prior to the hearing. 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.
Students who are referred for a disciplinary hearing receive full due process to determine whether the student should be removed from their current school placement. Disciplinary hearings will be conducted by an impartial hearing officer. Students and parents/guardians going through the disciplinary hearing process have the following rights:
- Parent/guardian may request a copy of their child’s records and any evidence the school plans to present which will be provided within 48 hours.
- Parent/guardian and student may request an interpreter in the language of their choice.
- Parent/guardian may bring their own witnesses and/or character statements to the hearing.
- Parent/guardian may bring a representative and/or advocate.
- Parent/guardian and student has two opportunities to attend the hearing.
- Parent/guardian may ask questions of the school and present evidence if it relates to the incident.
- Decisions will be mailed and/or emailed to the parent/guardian within 5 days of the hearing.
- Parent/guardian may appeal the hearing decision within 15 days of the hearing.
- All hearings are audio-recorded. After the hearing, parents may request a copy of the recording which will be provided to you within 48 hours.
An impartial hearing officer will consider all evidence, dialogue in the hearing, and a student’s academic, behavior and attendance records when making a decision on the outcome. The outcome may be one of the following:
- Student remains in current school placement with a behavior contract.
- Student remains in current school placement without a behavior contract. In other words, sufficient consequences were already provided prior to the hearing.
- Student remains in current school placement due to insufficient evidence.
- Student is laterally transferred to another district or contract-operated school for the remainder of their education.
- Student is transferred to an Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth (AEDY) placement until goals created at the start of the program are met.
Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth (AEDY) Program
- 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.
- English Learners (EL) cannot be placed at disciplinary schools that cannot meet their language instruction needs and must be taught by qualified teachers with ESL Teaching Credentials using materials that are appropriate for their ages and levels of proficiency.
- The School District and the AEDY Program work with families to create behavioral goals based on their 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.
Safety Interim Placements
- Schools may request a safety interim placement (temporary school assignment) to an AEDY program for the limited situations where the school has documented 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.
- Students with disabilities are not able to receive safety interim placements, unless there are special circumstances. Please read the next section to learn more about discipline for students with disabilities.
Discipline for Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities must be provided with a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). In July 2022, the United States (U.S.) Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, released guidance further explaining that Section 504 requires schools to provide behavioral supports and services to students with disabilities who need them in order to receive a FAPE. Additional information and resources can be found here.
Students Identified as Intellectually Disabled
Students who are identified as intellectually disabled can only be removed from the school building for suspension or a disciplinary hearing if there is written agreement from the parent/guardian or written approval from the Bureau of Special Education of the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). PDE can be contacted by calling 717-783-6913 or by visiting the PDE website.
All Other Students Receiving Special Education Services or a 504 Plan
The district may suspend students who are receiving special education services for up to ten (10) consecutive school days or fifteen (15) cumulative school days in one school year without providing special education services as outlined in their IEP.
If schools are considering 1) a disciplinary hearing referral and/or 2) a suspension for a behavior for which the student has received 10 cumulative days of suspension during this school year, the following steps must be completed first:
- Provide written notice to the parent/guardian of the recommended disciplinary action and an invitation to participate in the Manifestation Determination Meeting with the student’s IEP team.
- This meeting should take place within 24 hours of the incident (or within 24 hours of the school becoming aware of the incident).
- The purpose of the Manifestation Determination meeting is to answer two questions:
- Was the conduct caused by, or did it have a direct and substantial relationship to, the student’s disability?
- Was the conduct a direct result of the school’s failure to implement the student’s IEP?
- During the Manifestation Determination meeting, the student’s most recent evaluation, IEP and placement will be reviewed as well as the details of the incident that led to proposed discipline.
- The completed Manifestation Determination must be signed by the parent/guardian and IEP team, including School Psychologist.
- Issue a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement (NOREP) with the results of the determination and a copy of the Procedural Safeguard Notice (PSN) to the parent/guardian.
- If the parent/guardian disagrees with the decision that is made at the Manifestation Determination Meeting, they can request an expedited Special Education Hearing and the commonwealth-appointed hearing officer will review the manifestation determination. Directions on requesting a hearing can be found in the NOREP and must be completed within ten (10) days.
- Ensure IEP is in compliance as well as other corresponding documents if applicable. For example, a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) or Positive Behavior Support Plan (PBSP) may be needed in accordance with the IEP.
Proceeding with Discipline
- If the behavior IS NOT deemed a manifestation of the student’s disability, schools may proceed with the recommended disciplinary action in accord with the Code of Conduct.
- If the behavior IS deemed a manifestation of the student’s disability, the proposed disciplinary action of a suspension reaching 10 cumulative days and/or a disciplinary hearing referral or may not be implemented.
Special Circumstances/45-Day Placements
- Schools may request a 45-day placement at an AEDY program if the incident involved one of the three code violations listed below per IDEA:
- Possession a weapon
- Possession of illegal drugs
- Causing Serious Bodily Injury (SBI)
- As defined by IDEA, bodily injury that involves a substantial risk of death; extreme physical pain; protracted and obvious disfigurement; or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty.
- SBI but be substantiated through medical documentation submitted to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.
- A 45-day placement allows the student to receive interventions in an AEDY setting while the school team re-assess the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan.
- If the behavior is not one of these three special circumstances, is a manifestation of the student’s disability and the student is likely to cause injury to themselves or others, a school administrator can request an expedited hearing conducted by a special education hearing officer to obtain a 45-day placement. This request should be made by a school administrator to the Office of General Counsel.
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 be referred for an informal disciplinary hearing and AEDY placement, at which point it will be determined if a student should be recommended for formal expulsion.
The formal expulsion hearing process includes the following due process requirements:
- 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 delegates authority for all readmission decisions to the Chief Executive Officer/Superintendent or their 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.
Students Convicted or Adjudicated Delinquent
For Sexual Assault
While schools have limited authority to impose code of conduct consequences for conduct outside the school setting, Pennsylvania law establishes disciplinary requirements when a student has been convicted or adjudicated delinquent of sexual assault upon another district student. School setting – means in the school, on school grounds, in school vehicles, at a designated bus stop or at any activity sponsored, supervised or sanctioned by the school
Sexual assault – means any of the following offenses:
· Statutory sexual assault.
· Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
· Sexual assault.
· Aggravated indecent assault.
· Indecent assault.
Students who have been convicted or adjudicated delinquent for sexual assault of another student in the school district must give notice to the school within 72 hours of the conviction or adjudication.
If a convicted or adjudicated student has not already been expelled, transferred to another school or an AEDY Transition Program, or if the victim attends the same school, schools must take action to either transfer the student to another school, transfer the student to an AEDY Transition Program, or expel the student. Prior to any transfer or expulsion, the district must provide due process.
In the case of a student with a disability, including a student for whom an evaluation is pending, prior to implementing any disciplinary removal or considering a change of placement for the student, the district will coordinate with the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team and take all steps required to comply with state and federal laws and regulations, and Board policies.
If the sexual assault occurred in a school setting the school principal or administrator will notify the Title IX Coordinator who will determine whether the incident has been addressed in accordance with the School District of Philadelphia’s Harassment and Discrimination policy and procedures.
The District will ensure that the convicted or adjudicated student is prohibited from taking part in the following activities at the same time as the victim:
1. Attend the same school.
2. Receive transportation in the same school vehicle.
3. Participate in the same school-sponsored activity.
Return to school
A student who is expelled, transferred or reassigned, may return to the student’s originally assigned school only if one (1) of the following circumstances occur:
1. The victim is no longer enrolled in the district.
2. The conviction or adjudication has been reversed and is not pending appeal.
When the School District of Philadelphia receives a student who transfers from a public or private school during or after an expulsion period for an act or offense involving a sexual assault conviction or adjudication, the district may assign that student to an alternative assignment or may provide alternative education services.
Prior to admission to the District, a parent, guardian or other person having control or charge of a student is required, upon registration, to provide a sworn statement or affirmation stating whether the student was previously or is presently expelled under the provisions of this section. The registration shall include the name of the school from which the student was expelled with the dates of expulsion and shall be maintained as part of the student’s disciplinary record. Any willful false statement made under this subsection shall be subject to 18 Pa.C.S. § 4904 (relating to unsworn falsification to authorities).