Massachusetts School Discipline Laws & Regulations: Alternative placements

Discipline Compendium

Massachusetts School Discipline Laws & Regulations: Alternative placements

Category: Exclusionary Discipline: Suspension, Expulsion, and Alternative Placement
Subcategory: Alternative placements
State: Massachusetts

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LAWS

ALM GL ch. 69, § 1A. Department of elementary and secondary education; commissioner; duties.

The commissioner shall assess current programs of alternative education and shall develop a statewide action plan to expand and improve the delivery of alternative education programs.

ALM GL ch. 69, § 1N. Alternative education grant program.

(a) The department of education, hereinafter referred to as the department, shall establish a grant program, subject to appropriation, to be known as the alternative education grant program for the purpose of providing grants to assist school districts and Horace Mann and commonwealth charter schools with the development and establishment of alternative education programs and services to students suspended or expelled from school. The grants shall support the development of alternative education programs which would: (1) allow school districts to coordinate efforts to establish interdistrict regional alternative education collaboratives to provide educational services to suspended or expelled students; or (2) establish a district based alternative education program for those students. The grants may also be used to encourage the use of technology in alternative education programs. The grants shall also encourage voluntary expansion of existing alternative education programs in the commonwealth, and shall be used to provide alternative education programs for students who are at risk of educational failure due to truancy, or dropping out of school. Grants may also be used to assist in developing programs that provide a range of approaches to address behavior issues, such as behavior specialists, in-school suspension rooms and crisis centers, in addition to out-of-school alternative settings.

Programs designed under the grants shall be developed at the middle and high school levels and shall afford students the opportunity to earn a high school diploma in accordance with section 1D, and to be taught to the same academic standards and curriculum frameworks established for all students in accordance with sections 1D and 1E. The programs shall make use of existing resources in school districts, educational collaboratives, community colleges, and other agencies, service providers, and organizations. Programs shall be designed as placements that, at a minimum, educate students to the same academic standards and curriculum frameworks as taught to all students, address behavioral problems, utilize small class size, address individual needs and learning styles, provide engaging instruction and a supportive environment, and, where appropriate, utilize flexible scheduling. The programs shall also provide a comprehensive array of social services to support a student's remediation of issues that cause school failure, excessive absenteeism, truancy and school dropout. Grant recipients shall develop remediation plans for students that address both academic and behavioral issues. Grants may also be made available for in-school regular education programs that include self-improvement, behavior management and life skills training to help provide students with tools to better manage their lives and attitudes, to support programs that use family-based approaches, and to assist students and teachers during the transition of students back into regular education classrooms.

A grant awarded pursuant to this subsection, shall require that recipients undertake ongoing program evaluations that document the effectiveness of the program in helping students to achieve academically to the same academic standards and curriculum frameworks required for all students, to develop self-management skills, and to reintegrate and remain in regular education classrooms. In awarding grants, priority shall be given to programs that employ interventions that have been empirically validated.

The department shall establish guidelines governing the alternative education grant program. The guidelines shall include, but not be limited to, a requirement that when a student is transferred to an alternative education program a representative of the school district shall meet with the student and the student's parents or legal guardian to develop an agreement that specifies the responsibilities of the school, the student and the student's parents or legal guardian. The agreement shall, at a minimum, include:

(1) a remediation plan to address both academic and behavioral issues;

(2) a plan for frequent evaluations and assessments of the student's adjustment, and academic achievement and progress;

(3) a requirement that the parents or legal guardian of the student attend specified meetings or conferences with teachers, or utilize such other means of communication as determined necessary to facilitate communication, to review and assist in the student's progress;

(4) a timetable for reintegrating the student into a regular education classroom;

(5) the student's and the parents' or legal guardian's acknowledgement that they understand and accept the responsibilities imposed by the agreement.

(b) The department shall establish a grant program, subject to appropriation, to assist school districts with the development and establishment of in-school regular education programs and services to address within the regular education school program the educational and psycho-social needs of children whose behavior interferes with learning, particularly those who are suffering from the traumatic effects of exposure to violence. As used in this subsection, students suffering from the traumatic effects of exposure to violence shall include, but not be limited to, those exposed to abuse, family or community violence, war, homelessness or any combination thereof. The grants shall support the development of school based teams with community ties that: (1) collaborate with broadly recognized experts in the fields of trauma and family and community violence and with battered women shelters; (2) provide ongoing training to inform and train teachers, administrators, and other school personnel to understand and identify the symptoms and trauma; and (3) evaluate school policy and existing school and community programs and services to determine whether and to what extent students identified as suffering from exposure to trauma can receive effective supports and interventions that can help them to succeed in their public school programs, and where necessary be referred quickly and confidentially to appropriate services.

Grants may also be awarded to assist school districts in developing comprehensive programs to help prevent violence in schools, from whatever causes, and to promote school safety. The programs shall be designed to meet the following objectives: creating a school environment where students feel safe and that prevents problems from starting; helping students to take the lead in keeping the school safe; ensuring that school personnel have the skills and resources to identify and intervene with at-risk students; equipping students and teachers with the skills needed to avoid conflict and violence; and helping schools and individuals to reconnect with the community and share resources.

The department shall develop guidelines governing the implementation of the grant program authorized by this subsection. A grant awarded pursuant to this subsection shall require that recipients undertake ongoing evaluations of the effectiveness of the program. In awarding grants, priority shall be given to programs that are based on empirically validated interventions.

The department of education, in consultation with the department of public health and the department of mental health, shall establish an advisory committee to assist in implementing the grant program and in assisting public schools in addressing the learning and behavior problems of students who manifest trauma-related symptoms or classroom behavior that interferes with learning. Members of the advisory committee shall include but not be limited to: 3 educators, 1 of whom shall serve as the chair, appointed by the commissioner of the department of education; 2 leaders in the field of trauma and its relationship to school learning and behavior appointed by the commissioner of the department of public health; 2 leaders in mental health with expertise in family and/or community violence appointed by the commissioner of mental health; 1 leader in battered women's services appointed by the commissioner of public health; 1 leader in the area of homelessness and its impact on children appointed by commissioner of mental health; and 3 parents, 1 each appointed by the commissioner of education, the commissioner of public health, the commissioner of mental health. The advisory committee, at its discretion, may select additional members with relevant experience including but not limited to child advocates, medical doctors and representatives of juvenile and probate court.

(c) The commissioner shall evaluate annually the effectiveness of programs established under this section including the potential for replicating such programs throughout the commonwealth. The annual evaluation shall also examine whether students in alternative education programs funded under this section are being taught to the same academic standards required for all students, how much time students are spending in the programs, the racial profile of expelled or suspended students and the percentages of the students who are in special education or bilingual education. The commissioner shall also provide technical assistance to school districts seeking to replicate programs funded under this section, and shall provide training for teachers in the development of effective remediation plans for students in alternative education, and in the development of skills, techniques, and innovative strategies to assist the students. In evaluating programs funded under subsection (b), the commissioner shall consult with the department of public health, the department of mental health, and the advisory committee established pursuant to said subsection (b).

ALM GL ch. 71, § 37H. Policies relative to conduct of teachers or students; student handbooks.

Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, all student handbooks shall contain the following provisions:

(e) Any school district that suspends or expels a student under this section shall continue to provide educational services to the student during the period of suspension or expulsion, under section 21 of chapter 76. If the student moves to another district during the period of suspension or expulsion, the new district of residence shall either admit the student to its schools or provide educational services to the student in an education service plan, under section 21 of chapter 76.

ALM GL ch. 71, § 37H1/2. Felony complaint or conviction of student; suspension; expulsion; right to appeal.

Notwithstanding the provisions of section eighty-four and sections sixteen and seventeen of chapter seventy-six:

The student shall have the right to appeal the suspension to the superintendent. The student shall notify the superintendent in writing of his request for an appeal no later than five calendar days following the effective date of the suspension. The superintendent shall hold a hearing with the student and the student's parent or guardian within three calendar days of the student's request for an appeal. At the hearing, the student shall have the right to present oral and written testimony on his behalf, and shall have the right to counsel. The superintendent shall have the authority to overturn or alter the decision of the principal or headmaster, including recommending an alternate educational program for the student. The superintendent shall render a decision on the appeal within five calendar days of the hearing. Such decision shall be the final decision of the city, town or regional school district with regard to the suspension.

Any school district that suspends or expels a student under this section shall continue to provide educational services to the student during the period of suspension or expulsion, under section 21 of chapter 76. If the student moves to another district during the period of suspension or expulsion, the new district of residence shall either admit the student to its schools or provide educational services to the student under an education service plan, under section 21 of chapter 76.

ALM GL ch. 76, § 21. Opportunity for academic progress for suspended students; education service plans; alternative educational services.

Principals and headmasters shall ensure that students who are suspended from school for 10 or fewer consecutive days, whether in or out of school, shall have an opportunity to make academic progress during the period of suspension, to make up assignments and earn credits missed including, but not limited to, homework, quizzes, exams, papers and projects missed. Principals shall develop a school-wide education service plan for all students who are expelled or suspended from school for more than 10 consecutive school days, whether in or out of school. Principals shall ensure these students have an opportunity to make academic progress during the period of suspension or expulsion, to make up assignments and earn credits missed, including, but not limited to, homework, quizzes, exams, papers and projects missed. Education service plans may include, but are not limited to, tutoring, alternative placement, Saturday school, and online or distance learning. In developing the education service plan, principals may seek the cooperation or input of relevant health and human service, housing and nonprofit agencies education collaboratives, and other service providers. Any school or school district that expels a student or suspends a student for more than 10 consecutive school days shall provide the student and the parent or guardian of the student with a list of alternative educational services. Upon selection of an alternative educational service by the student and the student's parent or guardian, the school or school district shall facilitate and verify enrollment in the service. Students exempt from attending school under section 1 of chapter 76 shall not be subject to this section.

Instructional costs associated with providing alternative educational services under this section shall be eligible for reimbursement under section 5A of chapter 71B, subject to appropriation. The reimbursements shall be in addition to amounts distributed under chapter 70 and shall not be included in the calculation of base aid, as defined in section 2 of said chapter 70, for any subsequent fiscal year. Instructional costs eligible for reimbursement shall include only those costs directly attributable to providing alternative educational services under this section, such as salary of educational personnel, salary of related services personnel, costs for specialized books, materials or equipment, tuition costs, if the student is receiving services from other than the local public school, consultant costs if directly attributable to the student's instructional program and instructional costs of extended day or year services if such services are a part of the education service plan. Such costs shall be prorated as appropriate to reflect group activities or costs for part-time services. Instructional costs shall not include transportation costs, administrative or overhead costs, the costs of adapting classrooms or materials that are used by more than 1 student, the costs of fringe benefits of personnel employed by the school district, nor the costs associated with the development of the education service plan or service coordination for the student. Instructional costs associated with an education service plan shall be reported to and approved by the department and shall be reimbursed according to the formula and procedures in said section 5A of said chapter 71B.

REGULATIONS

603 CMR 53.01. Purpose and scope.

(1) The purpose of 603 CMR 53.00 is:

(c) to assure that every student who is expelled or suspended, regardless of the reason for suspension or expulsion, has the opportunity to receive education services to make academic progress during the period of suspension or expulsion.

603 CMR 53.02. Definitions.

School-wide Education Service Plan means the document developed by a principal, in accordance with M.G.L. c. 76, § 21, that includes a list of education services available to students who are expelled or suspended from school for more than ten consecutive days.

603 CMR 53.08. Principal's hearing under M.G.L. c. 71, § 37H 3/4.

(3) Principal Hearing–Long-term Suspension.

(d) Based on the evidence, the principal shall determine whether the student committed the disciplinary offense, and, if so, after considering mitigating circumstances and alternatives to suspension as set forth in 603 CMR 53.05, what remedy or consequence will be imposed, in place of or in addition to a long-term suspension. The principal shall send the written determination to the student and parent by hand-delivery, certified mail, first-class mail, email to an address provided by the parent for school communications, or other method of delivery agreed to by the principal and the parent. If the principal decides to suspend the student, the written determination shall:

4. Include notice of the student's opportunity to receive education services to make academic progress during the period of removal from school as provided in 603 CMR 53.13(4)(a).

603 CMR 53.12. Disciplinary offenses under M.G.L. c. 71, § 37H or 37H 1/2.

(3) Any student who is removed from school for a disciplinary offense under M.G.L. c. 71, § 37H or 37H 1/2 shall have an opportunity to receive education services and make academic progress during the period of removal, as provided in 603 CMR 53.13.

603 CMR 53.13. Education services and academic progress under M.G.L. c. 71, §§ 37H, 37H 1/2, 37H 3/4.

(1) Any student who is serving an in-school suspension, short-term suspension, or long-term suspension, or expulsion shall have the opportunity to earn credits, as applicable, make up assignments, tests, papers, and other school work as needed to make academic progress during the period of his or her removal from the classroom or school. The principal shall inform the student and parent of this opportunity in writing when the suspension or expulsion is imposed.

(2) Any student who is expelled or suspended from school for more than ten consecutive days, whether in school or out of school, shall have an opportunity to receive education services and to make academic progress toward meeting state and local requirements, through the school-wide education service plan.

(3) The principal shall develop a school-wide education service plan describing the education services that the school district will make available to students who are expelled or suspended from school for more than ten consecutive days. The plan shall include the process for notifying such students and their parents of the services and arranging such services. Education services shall be based on, and be provided in a manner consistent with, the academic standards and curriculum frameworks established for all students under M.G.L. c. 69, §§ 1D and 1F.

(4) Notice of Education Services for Students in Long-term Suspension and Expulsion; Enrollment Reporting.

(a) The principal shall notify the parent and student of the opportunity to receive education services at the time the student is expelled or placed on long-term suspension. Notice shall be provided in English and in the primary language spoken in the student's home if other than English, or other means of communication as appropriate. The notice shall include a list of the specific education services that are available to the student and contact information for a school district staff member who can provide more detailed information.

(b) For each student expelled or suspended from school for more than ten consecutive days, whether in school or out of school, the school district shall document the student's enrollment in education services. For data reporting purposes, the school shall track and report attendance, academic progress, and such other data as directed by the Department.

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