School officials will have you believe their Code of Conduct is the law. It isn't! There is a major difference between breaking school rules and breaking the law.
The purpose of any Code of Conduct is to set forth the school rules, standards of behavior, rights and responsibilities of students, parents and staff, and appropriate consequences. The Code of Conduct in itself is not the enemy, but an important ally. Be aware when a Code of Conduct is misused or misapplied, or if due process procedures are disregarded or skipped by school administrators, this is where the "railroading" starts.
Unfortunately, some School Districts all over the nation are using the Code of Conduct to hoodwink parents into signing away their rights. How? If you signed a questionable Code of Conduct, guess what, you may have just given permission for them to use it to do illegal things to your child and to you!
Depending on the wording, some parents have signed the Agreements or school pledges--often without thinking--as they have been told that their child can't attend school unless you agree. At least, that's what they're telling your kids. So what do you do? You sign it! Most parents think nothing of it...especially if their child isn't "trouble" -- until their child is questioned or possibly involved in an incident and you find out--the hard way--what you signed will work against you.
We ask: isn't this coercion? Your child has a right by law to a "free and public education" so why are these tactics necessary?
What You Can Do:
As any lawyer would tell you, it is your right to understand fully (informed consent) any contract agreement you sign, exactly what it is you are agreeing to, and if you don't understand it, don't sign it--or cross out the portion(s) to which you do not agree. You have the right to have everything explained to you. A school district cannot legally refuse your child his education while the matter is in dispute.
Be proactive. Study the Code and all Student Handbooks and attend any Orientation or Open House meetings held by the school. Make it your business to know the rules and procedures as well as they do. Thoroughly go over the Code with your child. Forewarned is forearmed.
It is important to know that the Courts have upheld a School's Code of Conduct being applied to your child's out-of-school conduct IF your child is found guilty of committing a serious crime (i.e. violent felonies, drug dealing, sex crimes) off school grounds (Source: Attorney General/State of Delaware.) Check your individual State's laws. However, suspensions for minor (non-felonious) offenses committed off school grounds that did not pose a direct danger to school safety or staff can and should be challenged. If your child is a target, even a speeding ticket can be used to suspend him, even if it did not occur on school grounds...yes, it gets that extreme!
If you have an attorney, have him or her look over the Code of Conduct and any Pledges or other agreements before you sign. Engage their services immediately if the school district gives you a hard time, or retaliates against your child as a result of your not signing their Code of Conduct and/or challenging them on portions of it. Immediately bring your attorney and your concerns to the School Board!