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DISCIPLINE – AUTHORITY

  • Who has the overall discipline authority in schools?
    • Florida law provides that each district school board, each district superintendent, and each school principal shall have particular duties to maintain discipline and school safety for each school. Fla. Stat. § 1006.07-09 (2011).
    • A district school board is required under Florida law to provide for the proper accounting for all students at each school through the control of students, and the establishment of student codes of conduct, a student crime watch programs, emergency procedures, educational services in detention facilities, best practices for safety and security, and suicide prevention educational resources. Fla. Stat. § 1006.07 (2011).
    • Each district school board must adopt a student code of conduct for elementary schools and a student code of conduct for middle and high schools. A student code of conduct must include:
      • consistent policies for disciplinary action including in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, expulsion, and any disciplinary action that may be imposed for the possession or use of alcohol on school property or while attending a school function or for the illegal use, sale, or possession of controlled substances;
      • procedures to be followed for acts requiring discipline, including the use of corporal punishment;
      • explanations regarding the responsibilities and rights of students with regard to attendance, respect for persons and property, knowledge and observation of rules of conduct, the right to learn, free speech and student publications, assembly, privacy, and participation in school programs;
      • notice that the illegal use, possession, or sale of controlled substances while a student is on school property is grounds for school or criminal penalties being imposed;
      • rules regarding the use of wireless communication devices, including notice that use of such wireless services in an illegal or criminal fashion while a student is on school property is grounds for school or criminal penalties;
      • notice that possession of a firearm or weapon while a student is on school property is grounds for school or criminal penalties;
      • notice that violence against any school board personnel is grounds for in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, expulsion, or imposition of other disciplinary action by the school and may also result in criminal penalties being imposed;
      • notice that violation of district school board transportation policies, including disruptive behavior on a school bus or school bus stop, is grounds for suspending the student’s privilege of using the school bus, as well as school or criminal penalties;
      • notice that violation of the school board’s sexual harassment policy is grounds for in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, expulsion, or imposition of other disciplinary action by the school and may also result in criminal penalties being imposed;
      • policies for assigning violent or disruptive students to alternative education programs; and
      • notice that any student determined to have made a threat or false report involving school personnel or property by a student will be expelled from the student’s regular school for not less than one year and referred for criminal prosecution.
      • Fla. Stat. § 1006.07 (2) (2011).

DETENTION & CLASSROOM REMOVAL

  • What is classroom removal and when is it permitted?
    • A teacher may remove from class a student whose behavior interferes with the teacher’s ability to communicate effectively with the other students in the classroom.  A teacher may send a student to the principal’s office to maintain classroom discipline and may recommend the appropriate disciplinary action consistent with the student code of conduct.  In turn, the principal must respond by the teacher’s recommended action, or by imposing a more serious action if the student’s history of disruptive behavior warrants.  A principal may impose a more lenient disciplinary action only after consultation with the teacher.  Fla. Stat. § 1003.32 (2011).

SUSPENSION

  • Under what circumstances can a student be suspended?
    • A principal may suspend a student only as provided by rule of the district school board. A good faith effort must be made to immediately inform the parent by telephone of the student’s suspension and the reason for the suspension. In addition, notice each suspension and the reason for the suspension must be reported in writing within 24 hours to the parent by United States mail. A good faith effort must be made to use parental assistance before suspension unless the situation requires immediate suspension. Fla. Stat. § 1002.20 (4) (a) (2011).
    • No student may be suspended for tardiness, absence, or truancy. Fla. Stat. § 1006.9 (1) (2011).
  • What are the types of suspension and the processes for each?
    • The types of suspension are governed by the district school board student code of conduct.  Florida law specifically provides for suspension in instances where a student who is charged with a felony, or a delinquent act which would be a felony, an incident which occurred on school property, if that incident is shown, in an administrative hearing with notice provided to the parents, to have an adverse impact on the educational program, discipline or welfare in the school in which the student iss enrolled. Any student who is suspended as the result of such proceedings may be suspended from all classes of instruction on public school grounds during regular classroom hours for a period of time, which may exceed 10 days, as determined by the district school superintendent.  Fla. Stat. § 1006.9 (2011).

EXPULSION

  • Under what circumstances can a student be expelled?
    • Florida law requires that a student be expelled from his regular school for at least one year and referred to law enforcement authorities for any violation of zero tolerance policies involving using, exhibiting, or possessing a firearm, an illegal knife, or other weapon; or making a threat or false report. Fla. Stat. § 1006.13 (2011).
    • Florida law provides that a principal may expel from school a student who has committed a serious breach of conduct, including willful disobedience, open defiance of authority, violence against persons or property, or any other act which substantially disrupts the orderly conduct of the school. In addition, a recommendation of expulsion or assignment to a second chance school may also be made with respect to any student found to have intentionally made false accusations that jeopardize the professional reputation, employment, or professional certification of a teacher or other member of the school staff. Fla. Stat. § 1006.9 (2011).
  • What notice is the student and parent entitled to if expulsion occurs?
    • Florida law provides that, upon recommendation of a student’s expulsion, the superintendent of the school district must give written notice to the student and the student’s parent of the recommendation, setting forth the charges against the student and advising the student and his or her parent of the student’s right to due process. Fla. Stat. § 1006.8 (2011).
  • What is the expulsion hearing process?
    • Before a student is expelled from school, the district school board must provide the student a hearing at which the student is afforded appropriate due process as prescribed Sections 120.569 and 120.57(2) of Florida law handling administrative hearing. Fla. Stat. § 1006.8 (2011).
    • A final decision on expulsion may be appealed to the appellate district where the school district is located. Fla. Stat. § 120.68 (2011).

ZERO TOLERANCE POLICIES

  • What does “zero tolerance” mean?
    • Florida law requires a district school board to establish a zero tolerance policy which defines acts that pose a serious threat to school safety, along with criteria for reporting such acts.  Zero tolerance policies must apply equally and are not intended to be rigorously applied for petty acts of misconduct, such as minor fights or disturbances.  As such, school districts are encouraged to utilize alternatives to expulsion or referral to law enforcement unless the use of such alternatives will pose a threat to school safety.   Fla. Stat. § 1006.13 (2011).

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT

  • Is corporal punishment at schools permitted?
    • Yes.  Florida law permits corporal punishment to be administered by a teacher or a school principal within guidelines established by district school board policy.  Another adult must be present at the administering of the corporal punishment and must be informed of the reason for the punishment.  Upon request by a parent, the teacher or principal must provide the parent with a written explanation of the corporal punishment.  A district school board is required to review its policies on corporal punishment every 3 years, and if a district school board does not formally review its policy by the end of the 3 years, the corporal punishment policy will expire.     Fla. Stat. § 1006.20 (4) (c) (2011).

BULLYING & HARASSMENT

  • Is there a state policy on bullying?

    (4) Each school district shall adopt and review at least every 3 years a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment of a student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution. Each school district’s policy shall be in substantial conformity with the Department of Education’s model policy. The school district bullying and harassment policy shall afford all students the same protection regardless of their status under the law. The school district may establish separate discrimination policies that include categories of students. The school district shall involve students, parents, teachers, administrators, school staff, school volunteers, community representatives, and local law enforcement agencies in the process of adopting and reviewing the policy. The school district policy must be implemented by each school principal in a manner that is ongoing throughout the school year and integrated with the school’s curriculum, bullying prevention and intervention program, discipline policies, and other violence prevention efforts. The school district policy must contain, at a minimum, the following components:(a) A statement prohibiting bullying and harassment.

    (b) A definition of bullying and a definition of harassment that include the definitions listed in this section.

    (c) A description of the type of behavior expected from each student and employee of a public K-12 educational institution.

    (d) The consequences for a student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution who commits an act of bullying or harassment.

    (e) The consequences for a student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution who is found to have wrongfully and intentionally accused another of an act of bullying or harassment.

    (f) A procedure for receiving reports of an alleged act of bullying or harassment, including provisions that permit a person to anonymously report such an act. However, this paragraph does not permit formal disciplinary action to be based solely on an anonymous report.

    (g) A procedure for the prompt investigation of a report of bullying or harassment and the persons responsible for the investigation. The investigation of a reported act of bullying or harassment is deemed to be a school-related activity and begins with a report of such an act. Incidents that require a reasonable investigation when reported to appropriate school authorities shall include alleged incidents of bullying or harassment allegedly committed against a child while the child is en route to school aboard a school bus or at a school bus stop.

    (h) A process to investigate whether a reported act of bullying or harassment is within the scope of the district school system and, if not, a process for referral of such an act to the appropriate jurisdiction. Computers without web-filtering software or computers with web-filtering software that is disabled shall be used when complaints of cyberbullying are investigated.

    (i) A procedure for providing immediate notification to the parents of a victim of bullying or harassment and the parents of the perpetrator of an act of bullying or harassment, as well as notification to all local agencies where criminal charges may be pursued against the perpetrator.

    (j) A procedure to refer victims and perpetrators of bullying or harassment for counseling.

    (k) A procedure for including incidents of bullying or harassment in the school’s report of data concerning school safety and discipline required under s. 1006.09(6). The report must include each incident of bullying or harassment and the resulting consequences, including discipline and referrals. The report must include in a separate section each alleged incident of bullying or harassment that does not meet the criteria of a prohibited act under this section with recommendations regarding such incidents. The Department of Education shall aggregate information contained in the reports.

    (l) A list of programs authorized by the school district that provide instruction to students, parents, teachers, school administrators, counseling staff, and school volunteers on identifying, preventing, and responding to bullying or harassment, including instruction on recognizing behaviors that lead to bullying and harassment and taking appropriate preventive action based on those observations.

    (m) A procedure for regularly reporting to a victim’s parents the actions taken to protect the victim.

    (n) A procedure for publicizing the policy, which must include its publication in the code of student conduct required under s. 1006.07(2) and in all employee handbooks.

    (5) A school employee, school volunteer, student, or parent who promptly reports in good faith an act of bullying or harassment to the appropriate school official designated in the school district’s policy and who makes this report in compliance with the procedures set forth in the policy is immune from a cause of action for damages arising out of the reporting itself or any failure to remedy the reported incident.

    (6)(a) The physical location or time of access of a computer-related incident cannot be raised as a defense in any disciplinary action initiated under this section.

    (b) This section does not apply to any person who uses data or computer software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, or computer network when acting within the scope of his or her lawful employment or investigating a violation of this section in accordance with school district policy.

    (7) Distribution of safe schools funds provided to a school district shall be contingent upon and payable to the school district upon the school district’s compliance with all reporting procedures contained in this section.

    (8) On or before January 1 of each year, the Commissioner of Education shall report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on the implementation of this section. The report shall include data collected pursuant to paragraph (4)(k).

    (9) Nothing in this section shall be construed to abridge the rights of students or school employees that are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

    1. Definition of bullying:

    (3) For purposes of this section:

    (a) “Bullying” includes cyberbullying and means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students and may involve:

    1. Teasing;

    2. Social exclusion;

    3. Threat;

    4. Intimidation;

    5. Stalking;

    6. Physical violence;

    7. Theft;

    8. Sexual, religious, or racial harassment;

    9. Public or private humiliation; or

    10. Destruction of property.

    (b) “Cyberbullying” means bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which includes, but is not limited to, any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic system, photoelectronic system, or photooptical system, including, but not limited to, electronic mail, Internet communications, instant messages, or facsimile communications. Cyberbullying includes the creation of a webpage or weblog in which the creator assumes the identity of another person, or the knowing impersonation of another person as the author of posted content or messages, if the creation or impersonation creates any of the conditions enumerated in the definition of bullying. Cyberbullying also includes the distribution by electronic means of a communication to more than one person or the posting of material on an electronic medium that may be accessed by one or more persons, if the distribution or posting creates any of the conditions enumerated in the definition of bullying.

    (c) “Harassment” means any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, use of data or computer software, or written, verbal, or physical conduct directed against a student or school employee that:

    1. Places a student or school employee in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property;

    2. Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities, or benefits; or

    3. Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of a school.

    (d) “Within the scope of a public K-12 educational institution” means, regardless of ownership, any computer, computer system, or computer network that is physically located on school property or at a school-related or school-sponsored program or activity.

    (e) Definitions in s. 815.03 and the definition in s. 784.048(1)(d) relating to stalking are applicable to this section.

    (f) The definitions of “bullying” and “harassment” include:

    1. Retaliation against a student or school employee by another student or school employee for asserting or alleging an act of bullying or harassment. Reporting an act of bullying or harassment that is not made in good faith is considered retaliation.

    2. Perpetuation of conduct listed in paragraph (a), paragraph (b), or paragraph (c) by an individual or group with intent to demean, dehumanize, embarrass, or cause physical harm to a student or school employee by:

    a. Incitement or coercion;

    b. Accessing or knowingly causing or providing access to data or computer software through a computer, computer system, or computer network within the scope of the district school system; or

    c. Acting in a manner that has an effect substantially similar to the effect of bullying or harassment.

DRESS CODES

  • Are there dress code or uniform requirements for schools?
    • Florida law does not provide for dress codes or uniform requirements. However, dress codes and uniform requirements may be provided at the local and school district level through policies or the school code of conduct. Fla. Stat. § 1006.7 (2011).

Student of Limited English Proficiency

  • Who is considered a Student of Limited English Proficiency?
    • Florida law provides a “student of limited English proficiency”:
      • an individual who was not born in the United States and whose native language is a language other than English;
      • an individual who comes from a home environment where a language other than English isspoken in the home; or
      • an individual who is an American Indian or Alaskan native and who comes from an environment where a language other than English has had a significant impact on his or her level of English language proficiency.
    • Fla. Stat. § 1003.56 (2011).
    • In addition, federal law aims to ensure that English Language Learners (used interchangeably with Students of Limited English Proficiency in Florida) attain English language proficiency and meet the same challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards as all other children are expected to meet. No Child Left Behind Act, Title III, Part A (2002).
  • What is the assessment test used for Limited English Proficiency?
    • Florida utilizes the Comprehensive English Language Learning Assessment (“CELLA”) as a diagnostic examination to evaluate a student’s strength and weaknesses in English.  In addition, Florida law requires each school district board to prepare a plan for identifying limited English proficient students.  Fla. Stat. § 1003.56 (2011).
  • What instructional programs are available for Students of Limited English Proficiency?
    • Florida law requires each district school board to develop a program for educating students of limited English proficiency. Each district school board is required to provide instruction or home language instruction in the basic subject areas of reading, mathematics, science, social studies, and computer literacy. Fla. Stat. § 1003.56 (2011).
  • Helpful documents and links

    Florida Department of Education – Bureau of Student Achievement through Language Acquisition:

    • Limited English Proficiency Initiatives
      • http://www.fldoe.org/aala/
    • CELLA Examination
      • http://www.fldoe.org/aala/cELLa.asp
    • Information Contact in Spanish
      • http://www.fldoe.org/aala/omsphl.asp

ABILITY GROUPING FOR LEARNING PURPOSES

  • Does the state have any state policy on ability grouping?
    • Florida law provides that each school district maintain, educational programs for exceptional students. Exceptional students include both students who are gifted and students with intellectual disabilities. Fla. Stat. § 1003.01 (2011).
  • Does the state require schools to have Gifted & Talented programs? Are there any admission requirements?
    • Florida requires that each school district adopt a process for identifying and serving gifted and talented students in the district and establish a program for those students in each grade level. Fla. Stat. § 1003.01 (2011). Florida provides that a gifted student is one who has a superior intellectual development and is capable of high performance. To be eligible for a gifted program, a student must: demonstrate the need for a gifted program; a majority of characteristics of gifted students according to a standard scale or checklist; and an intelligence quotient (IQ) 2 standard deviations from the mean on an individually administered standard test of intelligence. Fla. Board of Educ. R. § 6A-6.03019 (2011).

GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS

  • The graduation requirements are:
    • Florida law provides the general requirements for high school graduation to include the completion of a minimum of 24 credits, including:
      • four credits in English;
      • four credits in Mathematics;
      • three credits in Science;
      • three credits in Social Studies;
      • one credit in fine or performing arts;
      • one credit in physical education; and
      • eight elective credits.
      • Fla. Stat. § 1003.428 (2011).
    • In addition to satisfying the requisite coursework, a student must earn passing scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (“FCAT”). Students that have not passed the grade 10 FCAT, may retake the grade 10 FCAT as many times as necessary to pass the test before graduation. Fla. Stat. § 1003.428 (2011).

    Helpful documents or links

    • Florida Department of Education – Bureau of School Improvement – Graduation Requirements
      • http://www.flbsi.org/schoolimprove/studentprogression/highschgradreq.htm
    • Assessment and School Performance – Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test
      • http://www.fldoe.org/faq/default.asp?Dept=179&Cat=0

PARENT RESOURCES

  • STATE PARENT INFORMATION RESOURCE CENTERS

    Florida Department of Education
    Contact information
    Florida Department of Education
    Turlington Building, Suite 1514
    325 West Gaines Street
    Tallahassee, FL 32399
    Telephone: 850-245-0505
    Website: http://www.fldoe.org/
    Lori Rodriguez
    Florida Department of Education
    Bureau of Student Achievement through Language Acquisition
    325 West Gaines Street
    Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400
    800.206.8956

    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OFFICE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS
    Contact information for the Florida, Georgia, Tennessee office
    Atlanta Office
    U.S. Department of Education
    61 Forsyth Street S.W., Ste. 19T70
    Atlanta, GA 30303-8927
    Telephone: 404-947-9406
    Facsimile: 404-947-9471
    Email: [email protected]