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Student Discipline

Discipline Policies

Who establishes the rules for student discipline in schools?
Section 160.261, RSMo, requires the local board of education to establish rules for student conduct and that school district teachers, administrators and staff hold every student accountable for any disorderly conduct in school. This includes behavior on school property including the school parking lot, playground, on the school bus, and during school-sponsored activities.  In addition, several courts have determined that the district policy may also apply to student behavior off school grounds that directly interferes with the operation of the school or endangers the safety of other students or staff.

Is a school district required to have a written discipline policy?
The local board of education of each school district shall establish a written policy of discipline. Section 160.261, RSMo.

Who must receive a copy of the discipline policy?
A copy of the discipline policy shall be provided to the pupil and parent or legal guardian of every pupil enrolled in the district at the beginning of each school year.  A written copy of of the policy shall be made available in the office of the superintendent during normal business hours. Section 160.261, RSMo.

What must be included in the written discipline policy?

  • The district's determination on the use of corporal punishment and the procedures in which punishment will be applied.
  • When school administrators are required to report acts of school violence to teachers and other school district employees.
  • When school administrators are required to report to the appropriate law enforcement agency any of the felonies enumerated in subsection 2 of Section 160.261.
  • When any portion of a student’s individualized education program that is related to demonstrated or potentially violent behavior shall be provided to any teacher and other school district employees who are directly responsible for the student’s education or who otherwise interact with the student on an educational basis while acting within the scope of their assigned duties.
  • The consequences of failure to obey standards of conduct set by the local board of education.
  • The importance of maintaining an atmosphere where orderly learning is possible and encouraged.
  • A suspension for a period of not less than one year, or expulsion, for a student who is determined to have brought a weapon to school in violation of district policy and whether a superintendent, or in a district with no high school, the principal may modify such suspension on a case-by-case basis.
  • The definition of a "weapon" pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 921 and Section 571.010, RSMo.
  • The definition of acts of violence and any other acts that constitute a serious violation of the discipline policy. Acts of violence shall include but not be limited to exertion of physical force by a student with the intent to do serious bodily harm to another person while on school property, including a school bus, or while involved in school activities.  160.261, RSMo.

Should districts provide instruction to their employees on the discipline policy?
All employees of the district shall annually receive instruction related to the specific contents of the policy and interpretations necessary to implement the provisions of the policy in the course of their duties. This instruction is to include approved methods of dealing with acts of school violence, disciplining students with disabilities and instruction in the necessity and requirements for confidentiality.  160.261, RSMo.

Suspension/Expulsion

What is the difference between a suspension and an expulsion?
Suspensions are usually for a fixed amount of time with the student automatically returning to class after the suspension is completed. An expulsion generally means that the student is removed from school for an indefinite period of time until the student is reinstated by the local board of education.

Who determines the length of a student suspension or if a student is to be expelled?
Most penalties under the school district's discipline policy are set by the district’s board of education.  The length of a suspension or expulsion is based upon the seriousness of the offense and the student’s past disciplinary history.  The building principal is authorized to suspend a student for up to ten days. The superintendent is authorized under state statute to suspend a student up to 180 days based upon the district's disciplinary code.  However, state statute requires that a student who has been determined to bring a weapon to school shall be suspended for not less than one year, or expelled.

School boards have the authority to immediately remove a student upon a finding by school officials that the student poses a threat of harm as evidenced by prior conduct. Among other things, the board may base its determination on past disciplinary actions taken and the student's criminal or juvenile record. A school board may also suspend a student who has been charged with, convicted of, or pled guilty to a felony criminal violation in a court of general jurisdiction whether or not the violation occurred on or off school premises. In the above-mentioned situations, the board must afford the student a hearing before rendering its decision.  167.161, RSMoYarber v. McHenry, 915 S.W.2d 325 (Mo. 1995).

What rights does a student who is suspended from school have?
Students have a right under Missouri law to attend school. If that right is to be taken away, the school district must follow certain procedures designed to insure fairness in that decision.  If the suspension is ten days or less, the student must at least be given an oral or written notice of the charges. If the student denies the charges, he/she must be given an oral or written explanation of the facts that form the basis of the proposed suspension; and be given an opportunity to present his/her version of the incident.

If the suspension is in excess of ten days or an expulsion, state statute requires that the school must provide the student with appropriate due process.  Though statute does not define "appropriate due process" the presumption is that the proceeding would be more formal in nature.  Appropriate due process must also be provided to a student when academic credit earned by that student has been removed for disciplinary reasons.  The school board's written discipline policy should include information on due process procedures.

May a student's suspension be appealed beyond the authority of the local board of education?
A ruling by the local board of education is the final word on a suspension or expulsion within the district. Subsection 3 of 167.161, RSMo, provides that appropriate due process procedures shall include the right for a trial de novo by the circuit court.

May a student suspended for more than ten consecutive days or expelled for an act of violence be readmitted into school?
A school board may readmit or enroll a student suspended for an act of school violence only after a conference has been held to review the conduct that resulted in the suspension or expulsion.  Conference participants shall include appropriate school officials, the teacher or teachers directly involved with the conduct, the student and the student's parent, guardian or custodian.  Conferees must consider remedial actions intended to prevent future acts of school violence by the student before allowing the student to return to school.  Failure of any party to attend the conference shall not preclude holding the conference.

A student shall not be readmitted to a regular program of instruction if he/she has been convicted of or charged with one or more felonies enumerated in subdivision (4) of subsection 3 of Section 167.171.  However, a school district may allow the student to attend an available alternative education program.  Once a petition against a student is dismissed, charges are dropped, or the student is acquitted or adjudicated not guilty, the student may be readmitted or enrolled into school.

This provision does not apply to a student with a disability whose conduct is related to the student's disability.  167.171, RSMo.

What disciplinary action will be taken if a student brings a weapon to school?
State statute requires that a student who has been determined to bring a weapon to school shall be suspended for at least one year, or expelled.  The superintendent has the authority to modify such suspension on a case-by-case basis.  For purposes of this requirement, the term "weapon" is defined under 18 U.S.C. § 921 and Section 571.010, RSMo.  160.261, RSMo.

Student Discipline Records

If a student transfers into a new school district will his/her discipline record be transferred to the new school?
When a student leaves a school and enrolls in a new school, the law pursuant tosubsection 7 of Section 160.261, RSMo, requires that the student's discipline records be transferred along with other records.  If the student has attended more than one school in the last 12 months at the time of enrollment, the discipline records from those other schools must be transferred as well.  Once the student enrolls in the new school, the school shall request his/her records within two business days.  The old school has five days to respond.  167.020, RSMo.

May public school officials require an affidavit stating whether a student is currently expelled from another school for enrollment?
A school board may require the parent, guardian or custodian of a child attempting to enroll in a public school to provide a sworn statement indicating whether the child has been expelled from any other public or private school for a violation of board policies relating to weapons, drugs, alcohol or the willful infliction of an injury to another person.  The law requires the statement to be kept as part of the student's scholastic record.  A parent who provides a materially false statement may be charged by the school district with a Class B misdemeanor.  167.023, RSMo.

Corporal Punishment/Spanking

Can a school district spank a student if the parent objects to corporal punishment?
State statute requires all public school boards, as part of the district's written discipline policy, to include a statement on the use of corporal punishment within the district.  If the district uses corporal punishment as a form a discipline, the local board of education must adopt a policy regarding the use and administration of corporal punishment. This policy may also address the question of whether a parent will be notified prior to the use of corporal punishment or whether the parent may elect an alternative form of student discipline (usually out-of-school suspension).  160.261, RSMo.