Who is responsible for classroom discipline?

Most people would say that the classroom teacher is responsible.  However, that is not necessarily the case.  It is true that teachers must do what they can to control discipline in their rooms, but once that is done, responsibility goes to the administration.  In reality, teachers can do three things: (1) use their own actions and discipline plan; (2) contact parents; and (3) send the student to the office.  After that, there is little a teacher can do.  This newsletter deals with Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code.  This is where most of the state laws regarding discipline can be found.  It should be remembered that more teachers will be non-renewed, sued, and/or have their evaluation lowered because of problems in this area than all other areas.  If you need help, call your association.  Don’t wait until it is too late.

What is the teacher’s role in handling classroom discipline problems?

Teachers are expected to handle classroom discipline problems, but sometimes nothing seems to work —not phone calls or letters to parents, not meetings with parents, not even trips to the office. State legislators meant for teachers to have the power to remove such a student.

What is the duty of the administration?  When can a teacher send a student to the office?

Section 37.002 (a) of the Texas Education Code says:

“A teacher may send a student to the campus behavior coordinator’s office to maintain effective discipline in the classroom. The campus behavior coordinator shall respond by employing appropriate discipline management techniques consistent with the student code of conduct adopted under Section 37.001 that can reasonably be expected to improve the student’s behavior before returning the student to the classroom. If the student’s behavior does not improve, the campus behavior coordinator shall employ alternative discipline management techniques, including any progressive interventions designated as the responsibility of the campus behavior coordinator in the student code of conduct.” 

This section of the law clearly gives the teacher the right to send a student to the office to maintain discipline.  It also places the responsibility for change in the student’s behavior on the principal.

What does the law say about the removal of a student?

Section 37.002 (b) of the Texas Education Code goes on to say:

“A teacher may REMOVE from class a student:  (1) who has been documented by the teacher to repeatedly interfere with the teacher’s ability to communicate effectively with the students in the class or with the ability of the student’s classmates to learn; or (2) whose behavior the teacher determines is so unruly, disruptive, or abusive that it seriously interferes with the teacher’s ability to communicate effectively with the students in the class or with the ability of the student’s classmates to learn.”

This law clearly gives the teacher the power to remove any student who REPEATEDLY interferes with the teacher’s ability to teach.  At this point, the teacher is asking that the student be permanently removed from his/her class under Chapter 37.002.

What is supposed to happen when Chapter 37 is invoked?

Under Section 37.003(c) of the Texas Education Code, the principal may place the student in another appropriate classroom, in-school suspension (until the Placement Review Committee determines action), or an alternative education setting.

THE ADMINISTRATOR MAY NOT SEND THE STUDENT BACK TO THAT TEACHER’S CLASS WITHOUT THE TEACHER’S CONSENT UNLESS THE COMMITTEE ESTABLISHED UNDER SECTION 37.003 DETERMINES THAT SUCH PLACEMENT IS THE BEST OR ONLY ALTERNATIVE AVAILABLE.  (This committee is called the Placement Review Committee, PRC.)

What is the Placement Review Committee (PRC)?

According to Section 37.003 of the Texas Education Code, “Each school shall establish a three-member committee to determine the placement of a student in the teacher’s class.” This committee makes recommendations to the district as to the removal of students. The faculty chooses two teachers to serve on the committee and one as an alternate member. The principal shall choose one member from the professional staff to serve on the committee.

It is the duty of the PRC to review the documentation after a teacher requests that a student be removed from the classroom.  It is they who then determine whether or not a student is returned to the classroom of the teacher who is making the request.  If they say there is enough documentation to support the teacher’s request, then the principal can place the student in another classroom or alternative setting.

This section of the law gives the teacher and the PRC power over the situation after the teacher has removed the student and asked that the student to not be returned to the classroom.   This section of the law also prohibits the principal from placing the student back into that teacher’s classroom without the consent of the teacher or the Placement Review Committee.  Thus, it is necessary to have an active PRC.

Some Cautions

Do not expect that students will be removed from your class the first time you send them to the office. You must provide documentation supporting your recommendation. This means that you must follow your discipline system or the one provided by the district. Usually, this includes the teacher’s taking his/her own action, phone calls or notes to parents, face-to-face parent conferences, and a chance for the office to correct the problem. It is important that teachers have enough documentation to support a “Request for Removal.” In other words, a Chapter 37 removal should never be a surprise.  In fact, you should probably get guidance from your association before making a request for the permanent removal of a student from your classroom.

What if my administrator refuses to follow the law?

The administrator has violated not only Texas law, but also Board Policy FO and the Code of Ethics.  You should call your association.

Informal Removal

An informal removal of a student is for a short period of time such as a class period or a day.  It is used to send a student to the office to maintain effective discipline at that time.  This is NOT a chapter 37 removal.  This is a process that happens daily on most campuses.  This removal does not require the use of the Placement Removal Committee (PRC), as the student is being returned to that class and to that teacher after action by the office has been taken.

Formal Removal

A formal removal is a permanent removal using Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code.  The teacher is asking that the student to not be returned to his/her class again.  The teacher is charging that the student REPEATEDLY interferes with his/her ability to teach or “is so unruly, disruptive, or abusive that it seriously interferes with the teacher’s ability to communicate effectively with the students in the class or with the ability of the student’s classmates to learn.”  

Documentation will probably be required for this PERMANENT removal.  Only the Placement  Review Committee can return the student to the classroom, usually at the principal’s request.  The two reasons the committee would use to return the student are: (1) there is not enough documentation to support the teacher’s request; or (2) there is no other appropriate place for the student.  This might be true when the class is P.E., Music, or an Advanced Placement class and there are no other similar classes.

Discipline and the Special Education Student

You can remove a special education student for up to 10 days while an ARD meeting is being called. At the meeting, you want to ask for a more restrictive environment for one of the reasons listed below:

1. The modifications required for the student to achieve the goals and objectives in his/her IEP cannot be implemented in the regular classroom without eliminating essential components of the regular curriculum/activity.
2. Being in the regular classroom prohibits the student from achieving the goals and objectives contained in his/her IEP even though supplementary aids and services are used.
3. Implementing the student’s behavior management plan means that other students would not benefit satisfactorily from academic instruction or nonacademic activities.
4. The student presents a real danger to the other students in the classroom.

 Sample Chapter 37 Removal Form

If you are in need of a form for student removal, UEA provides a sample form, which can be found at this link.  Please call your association before submitting a Student Removal Request, so that they can properly advise you.