Student Behavior Contracts Are Great Alternatives To Heavier School Punishments


school behavior contract for student

Last Updated on May 31, 2021 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

What is a school behavior contract and why could such a student behavior contract be good for a student?

Student behavior plans can be positive in the right circumstances
School behavior plans can help keep kids in school when their behavior may be questionable

What is a School Behavior Contract?

A school behavior contract is a document that may be developed between a student’s current school and the student when some negative behaviors are occurring in the school.

Usually student behavior contracts are used when either a series of issues have arisen, or a student may be up for much heavier punishment, such as school expulsion.

Can School Behavior Contracts Eliminate Expulsion?

Yes. A student behavior contract may be used as an alternative to an expulsion.

This type of contract can be attempted as “other means of correction,” as required in the California Education Code for various offenses.

In fact, with many expulsion categories, such as habitual profanity, fighting, possessing an imitation firearm, theft, or other offenses, other means of correction are mandated before a student may be expelled, unless the student’s presence causes a continuing danger.

boy sad from school behavior contract
Bad school behavior can bring much worse punishment
than a student behavior contract

What do Student Behavior Contracts contain in them?

Usually, school behavior contracts contain terms such as:

  • Student will follow all school rules
  • Student will attend all classes
  • Student will not commit any crimes
  • Student will not do [the acts the school finds are negative (e.g. swear, fight, bring an imitation firearm), etc.]
  • Breach of the student behavior contract will mean a meeting with the school administration
  • Breach may mean additional discipline consequences such as a recommendation for expulsion

Should Parents Sign School Behavior Contracts?

That depends. It will depend on the student, why the contract is being proposed, what the contract says, and the impact of breach of the contract.

When is a Student Behavior Contract NOT Actually a Behavior Contract?

One key factor in evaluating a student “behavior contract” and whether it should be signed is what it says.

If a purported school behavior contract contains any form of automatic expulsion component, such as “If student breaches this contract they WILL be expelled” the document is NOT a behavior contract. Rather, it is some form of expulsion document and waiver of expulsion hearing pretending to be a behavior contract.

A document with that language should not be signed without additional review.

behavior contracts can be good for students in lieu of expulsion
Parents may want to ask for a school behavior contract if a student is facing heavier punishment such as expulsion

What is the Difference Between a Suspended Expulsion and a School Behavior Contract?

The difference between a student behavior contract and a suspended expulsion* is the effect of signing the document. If signing the document means no automatic expulsion for breach, it should be a behavior contract. If the document says that breach means automatic expulsion, it is an expulsion document and should not be entered into lightly.

When Should Parents Request a School Behavior Contract?

When an expulsion is pending and the parents want to try to negotiate that school expulsion down or get rid of it altogether they may want to explore a school behavior contract.

In that case, options such as behavior contracts may help a student return to school rather than be expelled.

*A suspended expulsion is basically an expulsion, which is put on hold (probationary) and may be kept at bay if the student meets all terms of the suspended expulsion.