The Houston Independent School District Board of Education approved a proposal to update the 2017-2018 Code of Student Conduct.
Among the changes is a plan to offer alternatives in some cases to students who have been referred to the district’s Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP). Other changes include reclassifying the level of some non-statutory offenses and aligning the code with the district’s recently adopted policy banning suspensions in second grade and below.
Reviewed and updated annually, the Code of Student Conduct serves as a guide for parents and students, outlining student rights and responsibilities, as well as district expectations for student conduct, the consequences for misconduct, and the process for appeals.
“Our focus is to ensure students are successful after being disciplined,” HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza said. “The Code of Student Conduct is one of the most important documents on file, and it’s important we continue to make changes to better serve our students and prevent a school-to-prison pipeline.”
As part of the proposal, students with first-time drug or alcohol offenses would be offered substance use education and awareness classes — and possibly community-based intervention — as an alternative to DAEP.
Additionally, summer school courses, weekend activities, community projects, and summer jobs would be offered to students currently in the DAEP for discretionary offenses — a move that would allow students to complete required disciplinary consequences over the summer and return to their home campus for the start of the new school year.
Also proposed is the reclassifying of some infractions not required by the Texas Education Code to be included in Level IV to Level III. Currently, Level IV offenses — which include serious misbehavior and felonies — specify placement at the DAEP as the default option. Under the proposed changes, students who commit Level III offenses — which include serious disruption of classroom instruction or school activities and repeated instances of Level III misconduct could receive targeted intervention, restitution, suspension or optional DAEP placement.
The proposed changes come after a March decision by the board to establish an internal DAEP for secondary students for the 2017-2018 school year.
The district currently contracts with Camelot Schools of Texas to provide DAEP services to secondary students, but that contract is set to expire on June 30. Bringing the program in-house would allow the district to align academic and behavioral interventions among campuses, improve transitional support for students between their enrolled school and the secondary DAEP, and improve efficiency by deploying DAEP staff members to secondary schools when DAEP is not at capacity.
The Board of Education also approved aligning the Code of Student Conduct with the district’s existing policy that bans suspensions in second grade and below unless required by law, and prohibits “Informal” suspension for all students. In 2016, HISD became the first school district in Texas to ban suspensions of young students.
Trustees also voted to continue the Teach Forward Houston fellowship program. Through the program, HISD graduates interested in obtaining a degree in education are eligible for free tuition at University of Houston in exchange for a commitment to teaching four years in HISD after their graduation.
The program is designed to provide higher education access to bright, motivated students who might not be able to afford college otherwise. It also ensures HISD classrooms are staffed with talented, highly effective teachers who know the district and are driven to make a positive impact on its students.
Teach Forward Houston began accepting applications in January 2016, and the first group of HISD students started the program in the fall of 2016. Nearly 60 HISD alumni successfully completed their first year at UH with plans to continue pursuing a degree in education.
Students will be required to repay their tuition assistance for any portion of their teaching commitment that is not fulfilled.