The Florida Union Free School District believes in the right of each child, between the ages of five and 21 years or until the child receives a high school diploma, whichever comes first, to receive a free and appropriate education. All student in this state between the ages of six and the school year through which he or she becomes 17 are required by law to regularly attend school, either in the public schools, non-public schools that are approved for equivalency of instruction by the appropriate school authorities, or in the home in accordance with the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education. The right to a free, public school education extends to all students, including those with disabilities. However, this right is not unconditional. As long as due process of law requirements are met, a student may be removed from the classroom, suspended temporarily or suspended permanently from school. Only students within the compulsory education ages (age six through the school year in which the student turns 17) are entitled to alternative, equivalent instruction following suspension.
Rights of Students
The District is committed to safeguarding the rights given to all students under federal and state law and District policy. In addition, to promote a safe, healthy, orderly and supportive school environment, all District students have the right to:
- Take part in all District activities on an equal basis regardless of actual or perceived race, weight, color, creed, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, gender (including gender identity and expression), sexual orientation or disability.
- To be respected as an individual and treated fairly and with dignity by other students and school staff.
- To express one’s opinions, either verbally or in writing, as long as it is done so in a respectful manner.
- Present their version of the relevant events to school personnel authorized to impose consequences.
- Access school policies, regulations and rules and, when necessary, receive an explanation of those rules from school personnel.
- To be provided with clear expectations regarding:a. Course objectives, requirements and state standards;
b. Grading criteria and procedures;
c. Assignment requirements and deadlines; and
d. School and classroom rules and expectations regarding behavior.
In addition, students in this District are afforded the following rights:
- Student Expression – Students shall be allowed the opportunity for the free expression of ideas consistent with rights established by the federal and state constitutions. However, a student’s freedom is subject to limitation in that the constitutional protections will not extend to libelous, slanderous, vulgar, lewd, indecent or obscene words or images or to words or images which by their very use incite others to damage property or physically injure persons. Furthermore, speech which materially and substantially disrupts the work and discipline of the school may be subject to limitation.
- Symbolic Expression – Students, in light of constitutionally protected free speech rights, may wear political buttons, arm bands or badges of symbolic expression so long as the same conform to the limits set forth herein under a school newspaper and a dress code.
- Student Activities – All pupils shall enjoy equal access to the extent of their capabilities for participation in the various extra-curricular and co-curricular activities sponsored by the School District. The privilege of participating in such activities shall be conditioned upon appropriate conduct as established by the student code of conduct and any rules promulgated specifically for participation in extra and/or co-curricular activities.
- Student Government – Students are encouraged to participate in the various student governmental bodies which have been or may be established in our schools. It shall be the duty of the student governmental body to establish reasonable standards for qualification of candidates to serve in offices of the government. Elections for student government shall be conducted in accordance with the principles of our democracy and elected student representatives shall work with the faculty, administration and student body in identifying cooperatively those areas of appropriate student responsibility. All student governmental bodies shall have a faculty advisor and shall be organized pursuant to a specific written constitution which the students shall participate in formulating.
- Student Clubs and Other Student Organizations – The District encourages students to participate in curriculum related extra-curricular activity clubs and/or organizations. To the extent that the District authorizes meetings of non-curriculum related clubs or organizations, the same shall be subject to the constitution of the student government and shall be conducted in accordance with any applicable federal or state law, as well as Board of Education policy or regulations.
- Student Searches and Interrogations – The Board of Education is committed to ensuring an atmosphere on school property and at school functions that is safe and orderly. To achieve this kind of environment, any school official authorized to impose a disciplinary penalty on a student may question a student about an alleged violation of law or the district code of conduct. Students are not entitled to any sort of “Miranda”-type warning before being questioned by school officials, nor are school officials required to contact a student’s parent before questioning the student. However, school officials will tell all students why they are being questioned
In addition, the Board authorizes the Superintendent of Schools and Building Principals, to conduct searches of students and their belongings if the authorized school official has reasonable suspicion to believe that the search will result in evidence that the student violated the law or the district code of conduct.
An authorized school official may conduct a search of a student’s belongings that is minimally intrusive, such as touching the outside of a book bag, without reasonable suspicion, so long as the school official has a fact based legitimate safety and/or welfare related reason for the very limited search.
An authorized school official may search a student or the student’s belongings based upon information received from a reliable informant. Individuals, other than teachers and pedagogical administrators, will be considered reliable informants if they have previously supplied information that was accurate and verified, or they make an admission against their own interest, or they provide the same information that is received independently from other sources, or they appear to be credible and the information they are communicating relates to an immediate threat to safety. Teachers and Pedagogical Administrators will be considered reliable informants unless they are known to have previously supplied information that they knew was not accurate.
Before searching a student or the student’s belongings, the authorized school official should ask the student if he or she possesses physical evidence that they violated the law or the district code and if an admission is not made, seek the student’s consent to submit to a voluntarily search. Searches will be based upon reasonable suspicion at its inception and reasonable in its scope (including intrusiveness) informed by the threat to health, safety and/or welfare posed by the object of the search. School officials authorized to conduct a search shall do so with an adult witness present. Strip Searches shall be governed by the provisions set forth in Paragraph B, below.
Whenever practicable, searches will be conducted in the privacy of administrative offices and students will be present when their possessions are being searched.
A. Student Lockers, Desks and other School Storage Places
The rules in this code of conduct regarding searches of students and their belongings do not apply to student lockers, desks, school owned computers where students have created electronic files and sent/received emails and other school storage places. Students have no reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to these places and school officials retain complete control over them. This means that student lockers, desks and other school storage places may be subject to search at any time by school officials, without prior notice to students and without their consent.
B. Strip searches
A strip search is a search that requires a student to remove any or all of his or her clothing, other than an outer coat or jacket. If an authorized school official believes it is necessary to conduct a strip search of a student, the school official may do so only if the search is authorized in advance by the Superintendent or the school attorney. The only exception to this rule requiring advanced authorization is when the school official believes there is an emergency situation that could threaten the safety of the student or others.
Strip searches may only be conducted by an authorized school official of the same sex as the student being searched and in the presence of another district professional employee who is also of the same sex as the student.
In every case, the school official conducting a strip search must have a heighted degree of reasonable suspicion from that applicable to searching outer garments and interior contents of bags or backpacks– to believe the student is concealing evidence of a violation of criminal law or the district code. In addition, before conducting a strip search, the school official must consider the nature of the alleged violation, the student’s age, the student’s record and the need for such a search that is so intrusive.
School officials will attempt to notify the student’s parent by telephone before conducting a strip search, or in writing after the fact if the parent could not be reached by telephone.
C. Treatment of Cell Phones
Teachers and administrators are authorized to confiscate student cell phones that are being used in violation of the code of conduct and/or policy 5695, Student Use of Electronic Devices. Teachers and administrators are permitted to look at the screen of the cell phone and can request the student’s cooperation to search the cell phone further. Without a student’s permission, teachers and administrators should not undertake a more extensive search until conferring with the Superintendent or school attorney for guidance.
C. Documentation of Searches
The authorized school official conducting the search shall be responsible for promptly recording the following information about each search:
- Name, age and grade of student searched.
- Reasons for the search.
- Name of any informant(s).
- Purpose of search (that is, what item(s) were being sought).
- Type and scope of search.
- Person conducting search and his or her title and position.
- Witnesses, if any, to the search.
- Time and location of search.
- Results of search (that is, what items(s) were found).
- Disposition of items found.
- Time, manner and results of parental notification.
The Principal or the Principal’s designee shall be responsible for the custody, control and disposition of any illegal or dangerous item taken from a student. The Principal or his or her designee shall clearly label each item taken from the student and retain control of the item(s), until the item is turned over to the police. The Principal or his or her shall be responsible for personally delivering dangerous or illegal items to police authorities, who shall be immediately contacted when the contraband is taken into possession.
D. Police Involvement in Searches and Interrogations of Students
District officials are committed to cooperating with police officials and other law enforcement authorities to maintain a safe school environment. Police officials, however, have limited authority to interview or search students in schools or at school functions, or to use school facilities in connection with police work. Police officials may enter school property or a school function to question or search a student or to conduct a formal investigation involving students only if they have:
1. A search or an arrest warrant; or
2. Probable cause to believe a crime has been committed on school property or at a school function;
Before police officials are permitted to question or search any student, the Principal or his or her designee shall first try to notify the student’s parent to give the parent the opportunity to be present during the police questioning or search. If the student’s parent cannot be contacted prior to the police questioning or search, the questioning or search shall not be conducted unless the student is 16 years of age or older. The Principal or designee will also be present during any police questioning or search of a student on school property or at a school function.
Students who are questioned by police officials on school property or at a school function will be afforded the same rights they have outside the school. This means:
- They must be informed of their legal rights.
- They may remain silent if they so desire.
- They may request the presence of an attorney.
E. Use of Drug Sniffing Dogs
The invasion of individual privacy should be minimized and students should not be unduly frightened or humiliated within the school setting. Because the use of drug detecting canines directly on students may be embarrassing or frightening and intrusive, it shall not be permitted .
Canines that are certified to alert their handlers when in the proximity of contraband such as illegal controlled substances, tobacco, alcohol or other scent detectable contraband may be used at the sites of student lockers, desks and other physical containment property assigned to students.
Students do not have an exclusive right to possession of individual school lockers, desks and other individually designated containment property and, therefore, no reasonable expectation of privacy when their possessions are place therein (see policy 5330, Searches and Interrogation).
The use of contraband detecting canines on lockers, desks and other such containment property will be permitted because control of lockers, desks and other such equipment is shared between the student and the school, without a reasonable suspicion basis for a search to detect the contraband. When a contraband detecting certified canine alerts when in proximity to a sealed or contained item, the alert shall be deemed to provided reasonable suspicion to search the contents of the concealed item.
If a searched locker, desk or other such equipment contains drugs, alcohol or tobacco or other contraband, students assigned to the locker and the owner of such contraband shall be subject to school disciplinary action. Information about such prohibited materials may be referred to law enforcement officials for appropriate action.
In collaboration with law enforcement officials, police handler(s) and drug detecting canines (dogs) may be used from time to time, to detect illegal drugs and controlled substances in the district’s lockers provided to the students. The use of dogs is to combat the illegal use of contraband by students while in the school. It is the goal of the district to maintain a learning conducive environment for all of the students. The following guidelines apply to the use of dogs:
- The dog(s) and the handler(s) shall be given access to a particular building by the Principal who shall provide advance notice to the Superintendent of the date and time when the dog(s) and the handler(s) shall be at the building.
- The dog(s) and the handler(s) shall access the building only during times when students are not in the immediate vicinity of the dogs. In appropriate weather, students may be outside of the building in the same manner as when a fire drill is being conducted while the dog(s) and handler(s) are inside of the building. If the weather does not permit students to be outside, then students may be gathered in the gym or auditorium (or they may remain in classes) while the dog(s) and handler(s) are accessing parts of the building that are not in the immediate vicinity of students.
- The Principal shall notify all teachers, in advance, to not allow students to leave the areas they have been assigned to while the dog(s) and the handler(s) are in the building.
- Students shall remain in their respective areas until the dog(s) and the handler(s) have completed the task of detection, the results have been communicated to the Principal and the Principal has taken any necessary actions regarding detection(s), if any, by the dog(s) and their handler(s).
- Drug detecting canines may be used to sniff vehicles in the school parking lot under the same guidelines pertaining to the sniffing of school lockers.
- The Principal shall notify the teachers when it is permissible for students to return to their classes.
“Drug Detecting Canines” means police trained and controlled dogs used to investigate the possible presence of controlled substances.
“Controlled Substance” means a substance as defined in § 220 of the New York State Penal Law or defined in § 812 of Title 21 of the United State Code.
F. Child Protective Services Investigations
Consistent with the district’s commitment to keep students safe from harm and the obligation of school officials to report to child protective services when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a student has been abused or maltreated, the district will cooperate with local child protective services workers who wish to conduct interviews of students on school property relating to allegations of suspected child abuse, and/or neglect, or custody investigations.
All requests by child protective services to interview a student on school property shall be made directly to Principal or his or her designee. The Principal or designee shall set the time and place of the interview.
The Principal or designee shall decide if it is necessary and appropriate for a school staff member, including but not limited to an administrator or school nurse, to observe the interview either from inside or outside the interview room.
A child protective services worker may not remove a student from school property without a court order, unless the worker reasonably believes that the student would be subject to danger of abuse if not he or she were not removed from school before a court order can reasonably be obtained. If the worker believes the student would be subject to danger of abuse, the worker may remove the student without a court order and without the parent’s consent.
G. Pregnant Students
During pregnancy and the period of pregnancy related disability which follows childbirth, a student shall be entitled to home instruction, upon receipt of a physician’s order. Pregnant students who desire to attend their regularly scheduled classes prior to the time of childbirth may do so to the extent that their physician approves of such attendance.
H. Student Grievances and Complaints
If a student has a grievance or a complaint about a school-related matter, a school employee or other school official, s/he may submit it, in writing, to the Principal of the school who shall respond within ten (10) school days with a written answer or proposed resolution. Grievances or complaints may be appealed in writing to the Superintendent of Schools if the Principal’s answer or proposed resolution is not deemed satisfactory by the student. The Superintendent of Schools shall respond to all grievances and complaints within a reasonable period of time following receipt of the written appeal document.
I. Video Surveillance
Video surveillance cameras may be used in school buildings in areas where there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy” and on school buses in order to assist the District to maintain student discipline, to safeguard facilities and property of the District and for the safety of students, staff and visitors while on District property.
Responsibilities of Students
Students attend school so that they may develop to their fullest potential. With this in mind, each student is expected:
- to accept responsibility for his/her actions;
- to help make school a community free of violence, intimidation, bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
- to respect the rights of others, regardless of race(actual or perceived), color, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation (actual or perceived), gender, or sex (Education Law §11, including his/her right to secure an education in an environment that is orderly and disciplined;
- to attend school on a regular and punctual basis;
- to use a polite tone of voice and appropriate body language, listening when others are speaking to you.
- to complete class assignments and other school responsibilities by established deadlines;
- to show evidence of appropriate progress toward meeting course and/or diploma requirements;
- to respect school property, e.g. lockers, and help to keep it free from damage;
- to obey the requirement of the Student Code of Conduct provisions, school regulations and rules made by other school authorities and by the student governing body;
- to recognize that teachers assume the role of an acting, caring parent in matters of behavior and discipline when at school, as well as during any school-sponsored activities;
- to contribute toward establishing and maintaining an atmosphere that generates mutual respect and dignity for all;
- to become familiar with this Code and seek interpretation of parts not understood from parents, teachers and school administrators;
- to be truthful when speaking with school officials regarding Code of Conduct violations.
- to respect personal space;
- to work to develop skills to manage their emotions and reactions and resolve conflict with others;
- to actively discourage inappropriate behavior, including bullying/cyberbullying or threats of inappropriate behavior of other students and report the incidents to the administration.
- to conduct themselves as representatives of the district when participating in or attending school-sponsored extracurricular events and to hold themselves to the highest standards of conduct, demeanor and sportsmanship.