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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Proposed Student Discipline Regulations: 603 CMR 53

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
January 21, 2014


At the December 2013 Board meeting, Department staff presented an overview of the new Massachusetts student discipline law, An Act Relative to Student Access to Educational Services and Exclusion from School (Act)1. Effective July 1, 2014, the Act will require school districts and charter schools to follow specific procedures for student suspensions and expulsions and provide to students who are suspended or expelled the opportunity to make academic progress through educational services provided by their district or charter school. The law directs the Board to promulgate regulations, which I am presenting to you for initial review this month. I recommend that the Board vote to solicit public comment on the proposed regulations, which we will bring back to the Board for final adoption in March.

The Act is the most comprehensive Massachusetts legislation to address student discipline in 20 years. Its primary objectives are: (1) to prevent the unnecessary exclusion of students from school, especially for those offenses not previously addressed in state law,2 and (2) where exclusion from the classroom or school is necessary for any type of disciplinary misconduct, to require school districts to make education services available so the student has an opportunity to make academic progress while suspended or expelled.

Two key provisions of the Act are codified in the Massachusetts General Laws as new sections G.L. c. 71, §37H ¾ and G.L. c. 76, §21. Under new G.L. c. 71, §37H ¾, which addresses non-statutory offenses (see footnote 2), principals are explicitly directed to exercise discretion in deciding the consequence for student misconduct, to consider ways to re-engage the student in school, and to avoid using long-term exclusion unless alternatives have been tried. The Act also requires districts to collect and report data to the Department. The Department will publish and analyze the data and will identify schools that need assistance to reduce the use of long-term suspension or expulsion.

The Board is considering these proposed student discipline regulations at a time of a national conversation about the consequences of "zero tolerance" student discipline policies; disparate impact of student discipline on students of color and students with disabilities; and the educational, social, economic, and moral imperative to keep students learning and engaged in school so they graduate college- and career-ready. Earlier in January, citing data showing that students of certain racial and ethnic groups tend to be disciplined more frequently and more harshly, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice issued a School Discipline Guidance Package, to assist schools in implementing school discipline policies that will comply with federal civil rights laws. School districts around the country and here in the Commonwealth are taking positive steps to reduce the use of suspension and expulsion, particularly for offenses that do not involve threats to school safety.

Attached to this memorandum are the proposed Student Discipline Regulations, 603 CMR 53, for initial review and a vote to solicit public comment, and a Summary of Proposed Student Discipline Regulations, 603 CMR 53.

As directed by Chapter 222, the proposed Student Discipline Regulations include:

  • The minimum requirements and procedures applicable to the suspension of a student under new G.L. c. 71, §37 H¾;
  • The requirement that public schools have policies and procedures in place to ensure that all student who have been suspended, in-school or out-of-school, or expelled, have an opportunity to make academic progress during their suspension or expulsion, in accordance with new G.L. c. 76, §21; and
  • The requirements for data reporting.

The Department has consulted with representatives from the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators Association and the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals Association, the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, the Education Law Task Force, which is comprised of advocates for students and their parents, and other stakeholders in the preparation of the proposed regulations.

With the Board's approval, we will solicit public comment on the proposed regulations and bring them back in March for final adoption. Associate Commissioner John Bynoe and Deputy General Counsel Dianne Curran will present an overview of the proposed regulations at the Board meeting.


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Summary of Proposed Student Discipline Regulations, 603 CMR 53
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Proposed Student Discipline Regulations, 603 CMR 53 - Effective Education Laws and Regulations on July 1, 2014
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Chapter 222 of the Acts of 2012, An Act Relative to Student Access to Educational Services and Exclusion From School (text of the law)


Last Updated: January 24, 2014
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