Puerto Rico School Discipline Laws & Regulations: Limitations or Conditions on Exclusionary Discipline

Discipline Compendium

Puerto Rico School Discipline Laws & Regulations: Limitations or Conditions on Exclusionary Discipline

Category: Exclusionary Discipline: Suspension, Expulsion, and Alternative Placement
Subcategory: Limitations or Conditions on Exclusionary Discipline
State: Puerto Rico

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LAWS

3 L.P.R.A. § 9809b. Disciplinary measures and sanctions.

(a) The disciplinary measures taken by the school's administrative personnel must be directed at improving student behavior, thereby creating a school environment that is safe and optimal for learning and improving a student's academic performance. The disciplinary process shall be preventive, progressive, just, and reasonable for rehabilitation and re-education purposes, while upholding the rights of the school community in general. For such purposes, if a student undergoes a disciplinary process or an evaluation by a psychologist or a counselor, said process shall be completed within fifteen (15) days from the commencement thereof.

(b) The strategies used to address disciplinary issues or toxic conduct must be directed at repairing the damage done and restoring the respect and peaceful coexistence that must prevail in the school community and, specifically, to reintegrate students into the school community.

(c) Teachers shall be responsible for the school's discipline, both inside and outside of the classrooms, thereby ensuring that students satisfy this requirement. They shall refer disciplinary issues to the School Principal after having exhausted all resources available to them, such as, but not limited to: restorative measures, mediation, interviews, and meetings with the student, his guardian, or the interdisciplinary team, or referring the student to the homeroom teacher, the school's social worker, or a professional counselor, among others.

(d) Before imposing any sanction or taking any disciplinary action, all intervention and counseling resources available to students, parents, custodians, or guardians must be exhausted. These measures must be documented and filed in the student's record. Moreover, the student subject to the disciplinary measures and the affected party shall always be afforded an opportunity to express themselves and be heard in an orderly, timely, and respectful manner.

(e) An out-of-school suspension is an exclusionary discipline practice that should only be implemented under special circumstances and only when the well- being of the students or the school's community is at risk. Under any other circumstances, school principals shall implement practices that are not exclusionary, such as mediation and restorative practices, among others.

(f) The Secretary shall promulgate school discipline regulations in order to ensure that the works of the Public Education System remain uninterrupted, and each Regional Office of Education shall implement the disciplinary practices that are best suited to the particular needs of their students, pursuant to the aforementioned regulations. Such regulations shall be consistent with the applicable laws in our jurisdiction related to minors.

(g) Each Regional Office of Education shall submit a copy of the proposed code of conduct to the personnel of the central offices of the Department, before June 1st of each year, for the review and authorization thereof. The codes of conduct shall not be valid or effective insofar as the aforementioned process has been carried out and the approval thereof has been notified in writing to the Regional Office of Education.

(h) No student shall be prevented from exercising his right to an education. No corrective measures that harm a student's physical integrity or violates his dignity may be imposed.

(i) The disciplinary measures imposed shall be proportional to the offense and must contribute to improving the student's conduct.

(j) The student's personal, family, and social circumstances shall be taken into consideration before choosing the appropriate disciplinary measure.

18 L.P.R.A. § 3802. General rights of the student.

All persons have the right to education. The education to be provided by the State shall be free for all students of the Public Education System. Elementary and secondary education shall be compulsory. All students shall be guaranteed equal protection of the laws and rights granted by the U.S. Constitution, federal laws, the Constitution of Puerto Rico, and other applicable laws, regulations, and ordinances. Without it being construed as a limitation, students shall have the following rights:

(1) To receive an education directed to the full development of their personality, intellectual capacities, as well as strengthening human beings and their fundamental freedoms.

(2) Special education programs shall promote the optimum development of the personality, as well as the physical, mental, and cognitive abilities of special needs students by providing them with an education and the tools for their integration into society.

(3) Parents shall have the right and the obligation to be informed of their children's academic performance as well as the responsibility to ensure their children's compulsory school attendance.

(4) Students shall have the right to know the evaluation process criteria to which they shall be subjected when their school work is graded and evaluated; and to be notified of their academic progress.

(5) Students shall have the right to a bilingual education that teaches them to communicate fluently in English and Spanish, at the very least, which are the two official languages of Puerto Rico.

The parents of students who are unemancipated minors or, in default thereof, their guardian or custodian, may inform the Department of Education of their desire to provide the student with instruction in English. To such effects, they may request admission to any of the specialized schools for said purpose subject to seat availability and following the rules and regulations of the Department.

(6) Freedom of Expression.- Every student shall have the right to express his opinions as well as to orderly and respectfully disagree with the opinions of his teachers and other school personnel. School authorities shall identify and provide spaces or areas to be used by students to place notifications or comments regarding any school issue, subject to the rules established in the Department of Education's General Student Regulations in effect. Under no circumstances shall the order established in the classrooms and on school grounds be altered.

(a) No public school, on its own or through employees or third parties, shall punish, retaliate, or impose disciplinary or discriminatory measures against any student who chooses to participate in military, paramilitary, or quasi-military activities or courses approved by the state or federal government or educational entities.

(7) Freedom of Religion.- The education provided in the schools of the State shall be free and nonsectarian.

(8) Equal Protection of the Laws.- Every student shall have the right to equal protection of the laws.

(9) Student education records and conduct in school: privacy, access, and disclosure.- Education records and other related documents as well as the performance, conduct, attendance, health, interaction with other members of the school community, personal appearance, personal care, and the attention of parents or guardians, or any other fact or circumstance involving the student within the school grounds shall be confidential. The records and related documents shall be kept in the custody of the School Principal.

No official of the Department of Education shall be authorized to disclose, by any means, the information that has been determined to be confidential by virtue of this chapter, unless the father or mother with parental rights or the legal guardian has issued an express and written consent. The student, father, mother with parental rights, or custodians and guardians shall have the right to request a copy of the education record. Access to these records shall be subject to the pertinent laws on the protection of confidential documents; persons not listed in this subsection shall be denied access to the student's education records, unless there is a court order to such effect.

The prohibition to disclose confidential information does not include information shared by officials of the Department of Education, the Department of the Family, and the Department of Justice, or any other government entity in the course and performance of their duties, or any information requested by a court order. Moreover, the disclosure of information to acknowledge the academic achievements of the student is hereby exempt from this limitation.

(10) Right to a free and safe education.-

(a) Education shall be free and accessible in the primary and secondary school levels to every public school student between the ages of five (5) and twenty-one (21).

(b) Students shall have the right to enjoy a safe school environment; free from the illegal use and trafficking of drugs and weapons; and free from any type of attack to their physical, mental, or emotional integrity.

(c) Students shall have the right to an education free from discrimination, abuse, and neglect.

(d) The right to receive equal opportunities to enroll in the public education system shall be recognized and guaranteed to any student who lives in Puerto Rico, regardless of race, color, sex, age, religion, birth, origin or ethnic background or nationality, political ideology, physical or mental disability, whether present or future, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and gender identity, and immigration status. Public schools may not deny or reject students from enrolling in school on account of immigration status or failure to provide proof of lawful presence in Puerto Rico. No student or his family members shall be inquired about the immigration status of a student, his parents, or custodians.

(11) Curriculum.- Public schools shall implement a curriculum that fully develops the intellectual, imaginative, and emotional capabilities of students. Public schools shall also develop student's abilities pertaining to the sound coexistence of human beings as indispensable members of society. Said curriculum shall promote student's analytical skills and thought, disregarding the tradition of memorizing and reciting unnecessary information. Moreover, schools shall promote the development of values and dignity in human beings.

(12) Special education and reasonable accommodation.- Every student who has a physical or mental disability or has special needs shall have the right to receive services as are necessary according to their condition, and to be guaranteed reasonable accommodation consistent with their needs, as established in §§ 1351 et seq. of this title, known as the "Integral Educational Services for Persons with Disabilities Act", and the agreement of the class action Rosa Vélez v. Departmento de Educación, KPE1980-1738. If a student has a disability or a medical condition said student shall have the right to have private information remain confidential, pursuant to federal and state laws in respect thereof.

(13) Disciplinary actions.- The student shall have the right of due process in any disciplinary procedure. Disciplinary actions shall be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Department of Education's General Student Regulations in effect. As part of the due process of law, students shall be granted the following rights:

(a) To be notified of the infraction and the sanction to be imposed. The foregoing shall be notified to the parents, guardian, or custodian of the student, and in the case of students of legal age, they shall be directly notified.

(b) To be given the opportunity to be heard before any sanction is imposed.

(c) To be judged by an impartial and competent person.

(d) To have knowledge of the student regulations, which shall be a public and accessible document to all students.

(14) Every student shall have the right to receive an education of excellence.

(15) Every student shall have the right to be considered an active learner and capable of social interaction within his social environment.

(16) Every student shall have the right to be heard and to have his opinions fully respected; he shall also have the obligation to hear and respect the opinion of others.

REGULATIONS

Regulation Num. 8115. Article IX, G. Infractions and corrective or disciplinary measures.

2) Provisional Methods that May be Utilized Before Imposing Disciplinary Methods

b. Short Suspension: The Principal may use this measure when circumstances are deemed appropriate for filing grievances. In which case, it shall comply strictly with the provisions of this Article stated in the section on the formal complaints procedure.

3) Corrective or Disciplinary Methods

b. The Secretary of Education, or his authorized representative, shall have power to impose any disciplinary or corrective measures for which the Principal is authorized, plus those described below:

1) Suspension for a period longer than fifteen (15) school days.

2) Suspension conditional until the student complies with its obligations under the circumstances imposed by the Secretary.

3) Permanently transfer student to a different school, district, or alternative school.

4) Expulsion–permanent separation of the Public Education System.

For serious circumstances it may increase to a defined term suspension.

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