Updated 8/2 at 2 p.m. with a correction (see below).
The Duval County School Board approved some changes to the student code of conduct for schools on Tuesday.
Before, when students got in trouble, they were sometimes sent to what were called “alternative to out-of-school suspension centers,” or ATOSS, but those centers aren’t being funded because not enough students were going.
Now, those misbehaving students will instead be suspended from school, in some cases with referrals to teen court or counseling programs.
The code also now includes a separate set of consequences for alternative schools, centers for students who rack up multiple discipline infractions or commit extreme infractions like bringing drugs to school. Punishments can now include additional days in the alternative school before students return to regular school.
On Tuesday, board members passed the changes without much discussion. The code of conduct is also being updated to include cyberbullying as an offense, and spitting will now be considered a physical attack on a student.
It also clarifies students can get in trouble for using profanity in the hallways and common areas. Before, the code only prohibited profane words or gestures used toward other students.
The code of conduct was also clarified to state that the third time a student is caught using a cell phone at school, administration can withhold the phone until a parent picks it up. It’s up to principals whether to use this discipline method.
Board member Scott Shine was concerned while workshopping the code because he said it could be dangerous for students to not have their phones.
“We’ve got kids with diabetes, kids who have to walk a mile and a half (home) and could become a victim of crime and (might have) a home without a landline,” Shine said.
For multiple cell phone infractions, principals can also use other punishments like detention or simply contacting parents.
Corrected: The original version of this story said the code was changed to allow parents to shadow students at school as an alternative to suspension. However, board members rejected that change Tuesday night. We regret the error.