A review of Good Conduct Policies (October 2017 School Leader Update)
As we begin a new school year and extracurricular activities start back, it is a good time to review Good Conduct Policies that you have in place. School districts have the authority to promulgate rules for the governance of their own students. Under Iowa Code section 279.8, a local school board “shall make rules for its own government and that of the . . . pupils, and for the care of the school house, grounds, and property of the school corporation, and shall aid in the enforcement of the rules, and require the performance of duties imposed by laws and rules.” Inherent in this law is the school board’s authority to adopt and enforce a Good Conduct Policy. In Bunger v. Iowa High School Athletic Association, 197 N.W. 2d 555, 564 (Iowa 1972), the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that schools and school districts may govern out of school conduct of its students who participate in extracurricular activities because those student are leaders who are looked up to and other students emulate. Those students also represent the school and depict the character of the school. Id.
The State Board of Education follows several principals when reviewing good conduct appeals that are brought before them. Those principals were established in Brands v. Sheldon Community School District, 671 F. Supp. 627, 630-631 (N.D. Iowa 972):
Those principles are as follows:
- A secondary student has no “right” to participate in interscholastic athletics or other extracurricular activities.
- Since there is no right to participate, the amount of due process owed to a student in such cases is minimal. Due process requires only two elements: 1) the student must be told what he is accused of; and 2) the student must be given an opportunity to tell his side of the story.
- In order for a student to be disciplined under a school’s good conduct policy there need only be “some evidence” that a student violated the policy. Id. Due process does not require courtroom evidence standards. “Some evidence” is less than preponderance of evidence and far from beyond a reasonable doubt.
School administrators, athletic directors, and school boards should be cognizant of these principals when drafting a Good Conduct Policy and when evaluating whether or not a student has violated a Good Conduct Policy. A District’s Good Conduct Policy need not be drafted with the precision of criminal code however it should be drafted well enough to put a student on
notice of what behavior or actions could constitute a violation of that policy. Iowa Association of School Boards has a sample policy for districts that you can check out if you are a member.
Here are some examples of violations of Good Conduct Policies that have been upheld on review:
- A student was found to be in possession of and forwarding nude and partially nude photos of another female student to other students in the school.
- A student got caught stealing a trophy from the local county speedway and was found in violation of the policy even though the student had subsequently returned the stolen trophy.
- A student was accused of using chewing tobacco and later “accidently” admitting using chewing tobacco in violation of the local board policy.
- A student admitted consuming three to four beers at his resident in the presence of and with the consent of his stepfather.
- Two students received a good conduct violation for being in the “mere presence” of alcohol.
- A student was found to have violated the good conduct policy when they went on a personal trip in another country over the summer and drank alcohol in a country where they were legally old enough to drink.
Here are some State Board Cases on Good Conduct Violations:
In re Student A, Good Conduct Violation, 27 D.o.E. App. Dec. 954 (2016)
In re Suspension of J.M., 27 D.o.E. App. Dec. 626 (2015)
In re T.B., 26 D.o.E. App. Dec. 483 (2014)
In re Good Conduct Discipline of Brandon M., 26 D.o.E. App. Dec. 192 (2012)
In re Travis Childs, 24 D.o.E. App. Dec. 186 (2007)
In re Jon and Josh Perry, 22 D.o.E. App. 175 (2003)
In re Scott Martin, 16 D.o.E. App. 252 (1998)