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Disciplining Students

State statutes provide general guidelines for student discipline. Most student discipline policies are made by individual school boards.

State law provides that public school pupils must comply with school rules, must pursue the prescribed course of study, and must submit to the teacher's authority. When a student's actions require discipline, the law allows districts to discipline, suspend, or expel "any refractory student." Grounds for discipline, suspension, or expulsion from school include: willful disobedience; open defiance of a teacher's authority, the use of profane or obscene language, willful damage or injury to school property, use of threats, intimidation, and harassment or coercion against any fellow student or school employee. (See ORS 339.250; OAR 581-21-055.) The appropriate action is generally left to the discretion of the district. However, that discretion is limited in a few areas.

The law also authorizes school employees to use reasonable physical force upon a student when and to the extent the employee reasonably believes it necessary to prevent harm to the employee or to others, or to maintain order in the school or at the school event. The circumstances of each particular incident will determine what is "reasonable" physical force. Physical force should only be used if the problem cannot be resolved without physical intervention.

The use of force should be for the purpose of restraining or removing the students who cause the threat of harm, not for disciplinary purposes. School employees may not inflict corporal punishment on a student. State law defines corporal punishment as the "willful infliction of, or willfully causing the infliction of, physical pain on a pupil." (ORS 339.250(12)) Physical force should never be used to punish a student.

From Legal Issues in Education, Employee Rights Manual for Oregon School Employees, p 52, 53, September 2003, Oregon Education Association