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The Fine Line: Balancing Discipline and Students’ Rights

school discipline

Public schools are responsible for providing a safe, adequate, and free education to their students. But providing a safe and distraction-free environment isn’t always easy. When students act out, break the rules, or behave inappropriately, it’s the responsibility of the teachers and faculty to discipline them properly. However, school discipline isn’t always simple. While a faculty member has the right to discipline students appropriately, they are also responsible for respecting a student’s rights. When that line is crossed, you have actions you can take to help protect your child.

Understanding Texas School Discipline Laws

While each school district may have specific sets of rules and regulations, there are general procedures to be followed under the Texas Education Agency. These laws dictate how a school should operate when disciplining a student. These laws override any local guidelines. It’s important to understand the different school discipline laws so you can better protect your child’s rights.

Student Code of Conduct

Every public school is required to create and publicly post a student code of conduct. This code of conduct sets forth the specific rules and regulations students are required to follow. It will often list the activities that are prohibited, such as fighting or bullying, as well as the potential punishments for breaking the rules. 

At the start of the school year, it’s a good idea to sit down with your child and make sure they understand the rules set forth in the student code of conduct. While your child has a right to a free education, they also need to respect other students and the school. If there are any points in the code of conduct that you disagree with or don’t understand, you can contact your child’s school to schedule a meeting to discuss them.


The student code of conduct should outline the punishment path taken should a student break any part of the guidelines. Different transgressions will often have different potential punishments. It’s important to understand these differences to know whether or not a punishment was reasonable in your child’s case. Most cases of punishment are on a scale. For example, there are often warnings or in-school suspensions given for the first acts of misbehavior before more extreme measures like expulsion.

When School Discipline Crosses the Line

Unfortunately, there may be times when discipline goes too far in protecting a school’s learning environment. Texas Education Code § 22.0511 refers to “the scope of the duties of the employee’s position,” which is a fairly vague protection clause that prevents suing government employees for personal injury. Because the ‘scope of duties’ is so lightly explained, many schools may get away with excessive force when disciplining students. While not all acts of force are malicious, they can certainly be damaging to your child both physically and mentally. And there are steps you can take to help protect your child’s rights.

Fighting Over-the-Line School Discipline

When your child faces unfair punishment, especially involving physical violence, you can still seek justice despite school discipline laws. Hiring an education lawyer can greatly help your case and give you the guidance you need to follow through. In many cases, you may be able to settle the problem without a legal approach (although having a lawyer during this step is still beneficial). By approaching the school directly and filing a complaint, you may be able to seek justice without involving higher authorities. 

Of course, if the school is unwilling to meet with you or does not resolve the issue adequately, you can file a complaint with either the Texas Education Agency or the Office of Civil Rights. Your attorney can help you determine which option is best based on your child’s case. If there is excessive physical discipline, or physical discipline without your approval, you may have remedies available through the courts.

When building a case against school discipline, it’s crucial that you maintain an accurate record of all communication and situations. Make a log of every email, phone call, and in-person conversation, as well as who you spoke with. Keeping copies of all documents can help support your child and defend their rights.

Get Help with School Discipline Laws Today

At the Hager Law Firm, we understand how important your child’s safety is. While school discipline is sometimes harsh, it should never cross the line into physical violence or extreme mental trauma. If your child’s school violated their rights and safety, call us today at (903) 466-0001 to schedule a consultation. The sooner you act, the higher the chances are you can seek justice for your child.

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