Unpacking M-A’s Disciplinary System

3 mins read

Violations of school rules can take on many forms, whether it be leaving during lunch, drinking at after-school events, or causing disruption on campus. Students who break these rules can expect suspensions or even detentions for their actions. But to what extent can M-A enforce disciplinary punishment? 

Students can face punishment for their actions not just during school hours. Administrative Vice Principal (AVP) Nicholas Muys defined M-A’s jurisdiction as from “when [students] leave their house to get to school, at school, and when they leave school to return home.” Essentially M-A is responsible for students as soon as they leave home for campus and when they are on their way home from school, school-sponsored events, or after-school programs. 

Schools in the United States are allowed to enforce rules that are broken outside of school hours due to a legal concept known as in loco parentis, which is Latin for “in [the] place of a parent.” Because of the nature of educational institutions, the law allows them to act as guardians like a parent. When a student is coming from or going to school, they are no longer in the care of their parents, and the school is responsible for them.

All schools in California are legally required to follow California Education Codes (Ed Codes).

Ed Codes, such as §48900, are a collection of laws pertaining to California education that determine what rules students must follow. Infractions under Ed Code include not only obvious violations like physical altercations but misbehavior online as well. For example, if a student posts something that could cause substantial disruption on campus, they could receive punishment similar to a student who did the same during school hours. Even if the student is under the guardianship of a parent, these same repercussions apply.

An Ed Code violation is when a student breaches the parameters set by various Ed Codes, most commonly Ed Code §48900. If a student leaves campus during school hours or gets in a fight at a store, they would be violating Ed Code while in the care of the school. Therefore, the school has the right to discipline the student. 

Students can be subject to any punishments that the school deems necessary, from community service to expulsions for extreme violations. Minor violation punishments resulting from skipping school or leaving campus can range anywhere from warnings to detentions. 

In most cases, punishments are decided by AVPs or staff members who specialize in student discipline, and a wide variety of factors influence their determination. Muys said, “We always make a point to look at why the student did this and if they have done it in the past. If they haven’t done it before, we’ll likely look to determine a lesser punishment that fits the violation.”

Due to in loco parentis, as long as a student has not returned home and is not in the care of a legal guardian, M-A has disciplinary power and can choose to enforce it if the situation warrants such punishment. This includes after-school and school-sponsored events such as club meetings, athletics practices, and dances. Muys said, “In all events our school hosts, we are still responsible for your safety, and if the rules are broken and that becomes endangered we have to act on it.” Recently, administration threatened to conduct breathalyzer tests and pat-downs at football games due to incidents with alcohol usage.

If a student chooses to stay home with an excused absence, they did not enter the school’s guardianship and therefore M-A has no disciplinary power or legal responsibility for them. Unless their actions directly impact a healthy school environment, no action will be taken. But if law enforcement becomes involved for an incident off campus, a student can almost always expect disciplinary action when they return. Muys said, “In only very extreme cases does law enforcement get involved, and in a majority of these scenarios a student will likely be recommended for expulsion.”

If the student chooses to leave home with the intent to return to school, there are situations where that student can receive punishment. Muys said, “Intention to come to school is something we seriously consider, and can have an effect on our decision to enforce out-of-school discipline. But if a student gets in an altercation with reasonable evidence that they weren’t returning to campus, we leave it up to their parents to decide the punishment.”

When a student skips school without returning home, the school can punish them as they are still under their guardianship. This pertains to online and in-person altercations that breach Ed Code, whether they disrupt school environment or not.

Students can violate Ed Code without knowing it, and educating yourself is the best way to avoid disciplinary punishment. “[Ed Code] can be very broad in what counts as a violation, so please be careful and put your safety first,” Muys concluded.

Jonathan is a junior at M-A and is in his first year at journalism. He hopes to learn more about his community and issues within it. Outside of school he enjoys listening to music and relaxing with friends.

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