Back-to-School Checklist: Student Policies

Throughout the school year, we receive numerous questions about the appropriate language for, and how to implement, board policies and procedures that apply to students. Below are examples of some student-related board policies that should be in place to ensure a successful start to the school year.

Student Discipline

Every school needs a clear, legally-compliant student code of conduct to ensure administrators handle student discipline matters impartially and in accordance with state and federal law. This is especially important given new legislation effective August 1, 2017, which: (1) requires that school officials consider seven specific factors before suspending or expelling a student; (2) includes new reporting requirements; and (3) mandates that school officials consider using restorative practices.

Recently, MDE revised the State Board of Education’s “Model Student Code of Conduct,” last issued in 2014, to reflect the new legislation. Thrun Law Firm consulted on the updates to the document and recommended several changes to ensure compliance with state and federal legal standards. While the SBE did not approve the model code at its August 8, 2017 meeting, the State Superintendent indicated that MDE will continue to refine the document.

Thrun Law Firm recently updated its student discipline package, last issued in 2013, to reflect the new legislation. The student discipline package includes a model student discipline policy, board resolution templates, reporting letters, and a checklist for student discipline. If your school is interested in purchasing Thrun Law Firm’s student discipline package, please complete and submit the attached order form. There is a reduced cost for schools that purchased the 2013 package.

Unlawful Harassment

One area of significant scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is harassment based on protected status, such as sex, race, age, national origin or ethnicity, or disability. OCR has required several Michigan schools to significantly revise their harassment policies.

In assisting schools with unlawful harassment issues, Thrun Law Firm has developed an anti-harassment policy and related documents that OCR has, on a case-by-case basis, approved for use in Michigan schools. Our attorneys have also trained employees at numerous Michigan schools on investigating and addressing unlawful harassment. Appropriate policy and handbook language, along with comprehensive staff training, are essential in defending against a lawsuit.

Section 504

Given OCR’s increased scrutiny of Section 504 issues over the past few years, school officials are encouraged to review their Section 504 policies to ensure that they are up-to-date. Policies and procedures that pre-date 2009 may be obsolete because the 2009 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act led to significant changes in the identification of students who are Section 504 eligible. Thrun Law Firm has developed a Section 504 manual, including model policy language, forms, and procedures. OCR has reviewed the manual and approved it for use in several Michigan schools. Our attorneys also have conducted extensive Section 504 training in schools.

Acceptable Use Policy

Schools that receive universal service funding (i.e., E-rate) must have an Internet safety policy compliant with federal law. Anyone who uses school technology resources, including staff, students, and other persons, sign an appropriate acceptable use agreement at the beginning of each school year. Thrun Law Firm has developed a model acceptable use and Internet safety policy and model acceptable use agreements.

Opioid Antagonist

As of March 29, 2017, schools may require that at least two school employees in each school be trained to administer an opioid antagonist to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose. The training must be approved by a licensed registered professional nurse. If a school requires an employee to be trained to use an opioid antagonist, the school must develop a policy for the administration of the drug consistent with MDE’s not-yet-released guidelines on the administration of opioid antagonists.

MDE has informed Thrun Law Firm that it plans to tentatively release the new guidelines at the end of August.

Thrun Law Firm plans to develop a model Emergency Opioid Antagonist Policy for schools that require staff to be trained to administer an opioid antagonist soon after MDE releases the revised medication administration guidelines. We apologize that this model policy could not be developed before now, but we must await release of the MDE guidelines to ensure that any model policy complies with those guidelines.

For more information about how to obtain any of the model policies mentioned above, please contact your Thrun Law Firm attorney.