Disciplining Students

General Rules Regarding Disciplining Students

Laws and regulations concerning student discipline must be obeyed by school employees. Corporal punishment is forbidden in Washington common schools. Corporal punishment is defined by the Superintendent of Public Instruction as any act which willfully inflicts or willfully causes the infliction of physical pain on a student. However, regulations permit the use of reasonable force by a school employee as necessary to maintain order or prevent harm to students, school staff or property. Use of physical restraint or aversion therapy as part of an IEP is permitted. RCW 28A.150.300, WAC 180-40-235. Additionally, corporal punishment excludes the following:

  1. Physical pain or discomfort resulting from or caused by training for or participation in athletic competition or recreational activity voluntarily engaged in by a student; or
  1. Physical exertion shared by all students in a teacher directed class activity, which may include, but is not limited to, physical education exercises, field trips or vocational education projects.

Discipline may be imposed on any student for violation of the rules of the school district. A school district must adopt and publish a code of student conduct, identifying types of misconduct for which discipline, suspension and expulsion may be imposed. RCW 28A.600.010; WAC 180-40-225. If the school administration refuses to adopt or enforce a code of student conduct, the local association must become active in organizing its members to resolve this problem. A model code of conduct may be obtained from your UniServ office.

Generally school employees are required to act reasonably under all the facts of the specific situation. State law defines the following acts as unreasonable: RCW 9A.16. 100

  • Throwing, kicking, burning or cutting a child;
  • Striking a child with a closed fist;
  • Shaking a child under age three;
  • Interfering with a child’s breathing;
  • Threatening a child with a deadly weapon; or
  • Doing any other act that is likely to cause and which does cause bodily harm greater than a transient pain or minor, temporary marks.

Other actions not on this list may also be found to constitute child abuse in some circumstances.

Disciplining special education students requires some additional consideration. All students with disabilities are protected by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Some Section 504 students also qualify for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

School employees may apply the same in-school disciplinary procedures to students with disabilities as they would any other student. Those disciplinary procedures may include but not be limited to time-out, detention, use of study carrels or restriction of privileges.

For students with disabilities, behavior goals and disciplinary actions should be incorporated in the Section 504 accommodation plan or the IEP. If a student is not making progress on such behavioral goals, then the teacher has the right to ask for a review of the student’s program and/or placement, to reconvene the IEP team.

Students with disabilities who are proposed for expulsion or suspension are entitled to additional due process. However, a school district can get a court order allowing exclusion of a violent student with disabilities pending due process procedures. Please note that this section does not always completely address the law governing the use or inflection of corporal punishment or physical discipline, and it does not adequately cover suspension or expulsion. For additional information please contact the VEA office.