Outline of the state of District of Columbia
District of Columbia

Limits on Referrals to Law Enforcement

Limits on Referrals to Law Enforcement

State law requires districts to establish formal procedures governing referrals to local law enforcement.

Code of the District of Columbia 38-236.01. Definitions.

(15) “Referral to law enforcement” means an action by school personnel to report a student to a law enforcement agency or official, including a school police unit, for an incident that occurs on school grounds, during off-campus school activities, or while taking school transportation.

Policy Type

Code of the District of Columbia 38-236.03. Establishment of school discipline policies.

(b) Local education agencies shall adopt, in consultation with school personnel, students, and parents, school discipline policies to promote the safety and well-being of students and staff. School discipline policies shall:

  • (1) Set high expectations for student behavior and adopt an instructional and corrective approach to school discipline;
  • (2) Permit out-of-school suspension or disciplinary unenrollment as a disciplinary action only to ensure safety and in response to the most serious offenses, as set forth in school policy;
  • (3) Avoid policies requiring automatic suspension or disciplinary unenrollment for particular behaviors unless otherwise required by law;
  • (4) Include a plan for continuity of education for any student subject to a suspension, including a mechanism for modifications to the plan to meet the needs of an individual student, as necessary, to facilitate the student’s return to the classroom, and appropriate measures to ensure the student:
    • (A) Continues the student’s studies during the suspension and receives all appropriate assignments for the duration of the suspension;
    • (B) Can communicate with school personnel regarding academic work; and
    • (C) Upon returning to school, has the opportunity to make up any school work missed during the suspension if the school work cannot be completed by the student during the student’s suspension;
  • (5) Require school personnel to seek and facilitate the involvement of parents in response to an incident resulting in a disciplinary action, particularly with regard to the plan for continuity of education, to the degree that a parent is able to participate;
  • (6) Identify conduct or categories of conduct, by severity of offense, including conduct that constitutes causing, attempting, or threatening bodily injury or emotional distress, for which a student may be disciplined;
  • (7) Identify graduated levels of disciplinary action for misbehavior through a list of options available to teachers and administrators for each level of misconduct; provided, that such a list need not be exhaustive;
  • (8) Describe the local education agency’s in-school and out-of-school suspension practice and policy;
  • (9) Promote disciplinary actions that are individualized, fair, equitable, developmentally appropriate, proportional to the severity of the student’s offense, and, if appropriate, restorative;
  • (10) Provide that school personnel shall consider whether student behavior can be safely and appropriately handled through other disciplinary action before making referrals to law enforcement or seeking school-related arrests in response to student behavior;
  • (11) Outline procedures for communicating with students and parents regarding disciplinary actions; and
  • (12) Articulate clearly the due process rights and procedures available to students and parents.
Policy Type

Non-Regulatory Guidance: School Discipline

This document provides non-regulatory guidance around discipline. OSSE encourages LEAs to include limits to seclusion and restraint, school-wide behavior management systems, student codes of conduct, bullying prevention policies, referral to law enforcement procedures, appeals processes for discipline actions, and more in their discipline policies. The guidance further provides additional guiding principles on student discipline and positive school climate, such as ensuring that the role of school-based law enforcement officers focuses on improving school safety to reduce inappropriate referrals to law enforcement.

Policy Type