Discretionary Discipline for Weapon Incidents in Schools
Connecticut law imposes a uniform discipline policy with respect to students who bring firearms, deadly weapons, dangerous instruments, or martial arts weapons to school or to off-campus school activities. Also, students who carry a firearm or deadly weapon face criminal charges under Connecticut’s penal code.
This uniform expulsion policy does not extend to students who possess other categories of potentially dangerous objects or devices. In these cases, individual school districts determine the appropriate discipline, which may include suspension.
Deterring Students from Bringing Weapons to School
Many school districts and states have taken steps to deter students from bringing weapons and other potentially dangerous devices to school. Initiatives include (1) peer reporting, (2) search and seizure, (3) policing, (4) code of conduct revisions, (5) violence reduction education, and (6) social/emotional intervention. Current initiatives promoted by the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) consist mainly of social/emotional intervention techniques that address a range of behavior problems.
Notably, some initiatives to deter weapon incidents in schools have faced constitutional challenges. Federal and state courts have weighed in on whether various weapons deterrent initiatives violate students’ constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as under the civil rights acts.
Weapon incidents in schools may not always involve firearms, deadly weapons, dangerous instruments, or martial arts weapons. If a student brings a weapon to school that does not fall into the category of a firearm, deadly weapon, dangerous instrument, or martial arts weapon, then the school administration may choose its own punishment, which, by law, includes suspension.
What Warrants a Suspension?
To warrant a suspension under state law, a student’s conduct on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity must (1) violate a publicized school board policy, (2) seriously disrupt the educational process, or (3) endanger people or property (CGS § 10-233c(a)). When a student possesses a weapon, school administrators could conclude that one or several of such conditions have occurred, thereby justifying suspension.
State law does not require or recommend a specific length of time for the suspension. However, it does require the student to serve the suspension in school, unless the administration determines that the student:
- poses a danger to the people or property of the school;
- poses a disruption to the educational process if he or she were to serve the suspension in school;
- deserves out-of-school suspension due to previous suspension or expulsion; or
- has not responded to behavioral support strategies previously offered by the administration (CGS § 10-233c(g)).
This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any education matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.