Discipline & Dismissal
Student council constitutions or bylaws should always include a section outlining the procedures to be used should it be necessary to impose a disciplinary action against a member that will affect the member's standing or status in the council, remove the member from office, or the council. Such policies and procedures reflect the expectations that schools and councils have for their members. Having those written sets clear expectations for council members and eliminates any surprises when actions must be taken. Following the written policy and procedures guide the adviser in applying any discipline of members in a fair and consistent manner.
In the absence of written policy and procedure, advisers will find it more difficult to take severe disciplinary measures against a student council member without the action being questioned or open to challenge in terms of it being fair, arbitrary or without policy support.
The student council is the student's organization and as with other rules and constitutional changes it is imperative that members of the council be engaged in the process of writing and approving of discipline policies and procedures. This can be accomplished by forming an ad hoc committee of 3-4 members who will work with the adviser. The group should work closely with the principal in formulating their draft and secure the principal's approval of their work before it can be voted on by the council.
Policy vs. Procedure
As you begin to look at discipline and dismissal as a feature of your constitution or bylaws, it is important to differentiate between policy and procedure, since both should be included. The discipline and dismissal policies you create are the rules, i.e., you may be subject to discipline or dismissal if 'this' occurs. The procedures outline the steps and actions taken by the council from the point it is determined that a member has been accused of a violation that warrants disciplinary action.
All matters of discipline and dismissal included in the bylaws or constitution should always provide for due process, granted by the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It gives the each person the right to present his/her side and to be judged fairly and justly. Whether you already have a discipline or dismissal policy and procedure in place, it is always best practice to have any such policy reviewed by the principal and possibly the school district's legal counsel, as their support of it will be advantageous in cases where a disciplinary action may be challenged.
Below is a sample of what one school has developed for its student council:
Section 3. Discipline of Officers and Members
Officers or members found to be in violation of school or district policies, and those who fail to uphold the duties of membership or office may be considered for disciplinary action as determined by the adviser. Actions may include:
- Temporary probation or suspension from council activities
- Regular consultations with the adviser or designated teacher
- Additional service or activity hours
Members who are disciplined will be required to develop, write, and follow a personal improvement plan that must be approved by the adviser. At the conclusion of the disciplinary period, members will meet with the adviser. At that time a decision will be made to reinstate the member to active status or consider further disciplinary action, including dismissal or removal from office.
Section 4. Dismissal from the Executive Board
Dismissal will be considered when: infractions are severe or habitual, and other disciplinary measures fail. Student Council members may be dismissed from the Executive Board for any of the following infractions:
- Violation of School policy that results in any form of suspension (in-school, Saturday school, out-of-school)
- Failure to attend council sponsored activities or assist in projects.
- Failure to notify of absences to committee, council, or officer meetings as stated in Article 6, Section 3.
- Conduct which is deemed unacceptable and/or upon recommendation of the principal, adviser, or both.
Section 5. Due Process in Dismissals
Any student who is considered for dismissal will meet with the Student Council Adviser, and administrator (dean or assistant principal) for the purpose of hearing the reasons for dismissal and to present a defense. Dismissal, probation, or dismissal of charges will then be considered and decided upon. There must be consensus to dismiss and concurred to by the Principal.
Section 6. Right of Appeal
A student dismissed from the council may appeal the decision to the principal of the school. The student is considered dismissed from the council during and before a dismissal is being appealed.
The following partial outline can be used as a model for developing your own constitutional or bylaw amendment to address the discipline and dismissal of members.
- Members may be considered for disciplinary actions that may include (but is not exclusive to):
- Time of probation will be determined by the adviser with principal approval
- Members on probation must...
- Exclusion/suspension from council social activities
- Unable to participate in election or recognition related activities
- Weekly meetings with the adviser or assigned teacher
- Additional service or activity time or assignment
- Officers who face disciplinary action may not sit as officers or preside over committees until they have regained status of 'in good standing'.
- Infractions that could result in disciplinary actions being taken against council members include but are not excluded to:
- Violations of school or district policy, or conviction for an offense of a criminal nature
- Repeated failure to execute the duties and responsibilities of office or membership
- 2 or more unexcused absences from meetings or required activities of the council
- Repeated absences and/or failure to meet minimum levels of participation in council activities
Members who are considered for disciplinary action
- Member will be informed by the adviser and be required to meet with him/her within one week to discuss the matter.
- Based on the meeting with the member, the adviser will determine if discipline is necessary and will further determine the appropriate type and length of disciplinary action for the student.
- Members given disciplinary actions less than dismissal must work with the adviser to identify benchmarks for improvement and meet at regular intervals with the adviser to evaluate progress.
- Members disagreeing with disciplinary measures may appeal to the principal.
- Members who fail to make improvement or to fulfill obligations associated with the disciplinary actions may be considered for dismissal
Disciplinary policies and procedures for student councils should be written, keeping in mind that the primary purpose is not to communicate a punitive threat to hold over members. Rather, they reinforce the expected behaviors and commitment for members, and put forth a fair and consistent process for addressing and resolving instances where disciplinary actions become necessary.