School Safety, Discipline and Responsibilities

Methods for Enforcing School Discipline

Corporal Punishment Prohibited

Corporal punishment is prohibited by California law.  Corporal punishment means “the willful infliction of physical pain on a pupil.” It does not include reasonable and necessary force for self-defense, to quell a disturbance, to prevent injury to others or damage to property, or to remove dangerous weapons from the possession of students. Ed. Code49000, 49001; PEN. Code 11165.4.

Any person who inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child is guilty of a misdemeanor. PEN. Code 273(a).

Dress Code

A school district can control the use of gang colors and gang related apparel on a school campus by:

a)      declaring gang related apparel to be hazardous to the health and safety of the school; and

b)      including a dress code that prohibits pupils from wearing gang apparel in the school safety plan.

Gang related apparel shall not be considered a protected form of free speech. Ed. Code 35183.


A teacher is authorized to seize any firearm, knife, razor, switchblade, machine gun or other “injurious object” capable of inflicting substantial bodily damage from any person on school premises or on a public right-of-way adjacent to school property, or while under the authority of school personnel.  Ed. Code 49331; PEN. Code 626.10.


In the case of In Re William G, the California Supreme Court clearly stated the Constitutional standard to be applied to a student search as follows:

We conclude that searches of students by public school officials must be based on a reasonable suspicion that the student or students to be searched have engaged, or are engaging, in a proscribed activity (that is, a violation of a school rule or regulation, or a criminal statute). These must be articulable facts supporting that reasonable suspicion.  Neither indiscriminate searches of lockers nor more discreet individual searches of a locker, purse or a person, here a student, can take place absent the existence of reasonable suspicion. Respect for privacy is the rule; a search is the exception.  In Re William G (1985) 221 Cal. Rptr. 118 (emphasis added).

However, no school employee shall conduct a search that involves: a) conducting a body cavity search of a pupil manually or with an instrument or b) removing or arranging any or all of the clothing of a pupil to permit a visual inspection of the underclothing, breast, buttocks, or genitalia of the pupil. Ed. Code 49050.

The Attorney General has issued an opinion that the use of metal detectors in schools is not unconstitutional where a substantial safety problem exists and the use is governed by formally adopted uniform procedures which minimize the intrusion and the opportunity for the exercise of arbitrary discretion. Such procedures should include at least advance notice of the search, truly random selection of students to be searched, and a second walk-through where the metal detector is activated. Ops, Cal. Atty. Gen. 92-201 (1992).


A pupil may be detained for up to one hour after school for disciplinary reasons; except a pupil may not be detained so as to miss regular bus transportation. Pupils may not be detained during the noon hour for disciplinary reasons.  5 Cal. Code Reg. 307, 352, 353. A school district may adopt reasonable rules and regulations authorizing a teacher to restrict a pupil’s recess time for disciplinary purposes. Ed. Code 44807.5.

Community Service

A Superintendent, principal or designee may require a pupil to perform community service on school grounds during non-school hours, including outdoor beautification, campus betterment, and teacher or peer assistance programs. Ed. Code 48900.6.


Disruptive or violent students, age 16 and up, can be involuntarily transferred to “continuation schools,” which may or may not be located on a separate site. Ed. Code 48432.5. However, a teacher in the school in which the student is enrolled cannot participate in the final decision for an involuntary transfer. Certain notices and hearings must precede such a transfer. Such involuntary transfers can occur only when other less drastic methods or corrections have failed, unless the principal determines that the student presents an immediate danger to people or property or threatens the instructional process.

These involuntary transfers can extend only to the end of the semester following the acts leading up to the transfer.

Pupils aged 8-16 can also be temporarily assigned to 24-hour elementary schools for insubordination or refusal to obey the rules and regulations of school authorities. Ed. Code 48607. School principals can recommend admission to a board of admission. Ed. Code 48606. The goal is to return the student to the regular school as soon as possible and to use this school only as a means of preventing later and more difficult delinquency.

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