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Dear RPS Families,

At Rochester Public Schools, we are dedicated to providing our students and staff with a safe and culturally responsive environment to learn and work. We strive to provide the support our students need to stay in school and learn. The Student Handbook is designed to assist the district in accomplishing its mission to inspire, challenge, and empower all students with the knowledge and skills required to reach their full potential, to contribute to future generations, and to become involved members of a global community. This Student Handbook is aligned with RPS’s Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports Model, a best-practice model that has an emphasis on school-wide systems of support that include proactive strategies for defining, teaching, and supporting appropriate student behaviors to create positive school environments. Each school adopts its own Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports Plan, using Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (“PBIS”) to reinforce good behavior and emphasizing keeping students in school.

We want to encourage a learning environment of mutual respect and problem-solving among all students and staff at every school. Please take some time to read this important document and discuss it with your children. Together we can help our students stay in class and school so they can take advantage of the many learning opportunities available to them every day. At the back of this Handbook you will find a form to complete, indicating you have read this Handbook. Please complete the form and return to your school principal. If you have questions or concerns about this handbook or the supports we offer, please contact your child’s Principal or our District Discipline Supervisor, Afolabi Runsewe at (507) 328-4300.

Mike Muñoz Signature

Michael Muñoz
Superintendent

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District-Level Contact Information

Afolabi Runsewe is a Principal on Special Assignment who acts as the RPS Discipline Supervisor. In this capacity, he is responsible for reviewing RPS data and disciplinary records to identify any trends or areas of concern associated with RPS’s student discipline policies and procedures. Mr. Runsewe plays a lead role in implementing PBIS throughout individual RPS sites. Mr. Runsewe also serves as a primary point of contact for parents, guardians, students, and other individuals who have questions or concerns regarding RPS’s disciplinary policies and procedures. Mr. Runsewe may be reached by phone at (507) 328-4300 or by email

Jean Murphy is a Principal on Special Assignment who provides assistance to building administrators on issues related to specific student disciplinary incidents. Ms. Murphy also assists Mr. Runsewe with responding to complaints from parents, guardians, students, and other individuals regarding RPS’s disciplinary policies and procedures. Ms. Murphy may be reached by phone at (507) 328-4300.

Both Mr. Runsewe and Ms. Murphy can also be reached by mail using the following address:
Rochester Public Schools - Edison Administration Building, 615 7th Street SW, Rochester, MN 55902

Introduction to PBIS

RPS’s mission is to inspire, challenge, and empower all students with the knowledge and skills required to reach their full potential, to contribute to future generations, and to become involved members of a global community. In pursuit of this mission, RPS has high expectations for student behavior and requires that all students demonstrate responsibility and appropriate behavior in the classroom, on school grounds, and at school-sponsored events and activities. RPS is committed to providing a safe, supportive, and orderly educational environment for all students.

RPS’s approach to student discipline is designed to utilize evidence-based research in an effort to avoid situations in which students are unnecessarily removed from the classroom environment. To that end, RPS employs Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, commonly called PBIS. PBIS is a framework that assists schools in identifying and implementing research-based behavioral interventions in an effort to improve social and academic outcomes for all students. PBIS is based on the idea that students learn appropriate behavior through instruction, practice, feedback, and encouragement. Key features of PBIS include: outlining a clear set of defined positive expectations and behaviors, the teaching of expected behaviors, recognition of meeting expected behaviors, monitoring and correcting errors in behaviors, and using data-based information for decision-making, monitoring, and evaluating results at individual school sites.

Another aspect of PBIS involves the identification of three to five guiding behavioral expectations for students that are positively stated and easy to remember. RPS places a district-wide emphasis on the following three guiding expectations: Be Respectful, Be Responsible, and Be Safe. Behavioral expectations are taught to students using examples of specific positive behaviors that fall within these three expectations. Each school site has a PBIS team, which is responsible for creating specific school-wide examples of appropriate behavior based on these guiding principles. These examples are incorporated into a behavior matrix that is used at each school site.

Code of Student Conduct

Maintaining a safe, productive environment in school and in the classroom is a priority at RPS. RPS is also committed to administering student discipline in a manner that ensures the fair and equitable treatment of all students when a staff member makes a disciplinary referral or imposes disciplinary sanctions.

The RPS School Board has adopted Policy 506, which outlines the School Board’s expectations for student behavior and a Code of Student Conduct outlining examples of unacceptable student behavior. This Handbook incorporates the expectations outlined in Policy 506 and provides information regarding how RPS Administration enforces the provisions of Policy 506.

Students must follow the provisions of Policy 506 and this Handbook before, during, and after school. The expectations outlined in Policy 506 and this Handbook apply inside school buildings, on school grounds, and at school-related activities and events. Students must also follow these expectations on school buses or vans and at bus stops. An off-campus violation of these expectations may result in disciplinary action taken by RPS if the violation has a direct and immediate effect on school discipline or the general safety and welfare of students or if the violation is a continuation of or has a nexus with misconduct that occurred on school grounds or at a school event.

Students and families should also note that the Minnesota State High School League (“MSHSL”) has behavioral expectations that apply to students who participate in MSHSL-sanctioned activities. The MSHSL’s Official Handbook is available online at www.mshsl.org.

Responses to Violations of the Code of Student Conduct

RPS’s approach to student discipline aims to help students learn good behavior and to limit situations in which students are removed from their classroom or from school. To that end, RPS staff address student behavior issues using a two-level approach. Level I issues involve minor infractions that are addressed in the classroom by a teacher, paraprofessional, or other personnel. Level II issues involve more serious infractions that require an office referral and are addressed by a school administrator or district-level administrator. Specific definitions for Level I and Level II offenses are included in the Appendix to this Handbook.

Level I Offenses

The grid below identifies specific Level I offenses and the manner in which personnel are expected to respond to Level I offenses.

RPS Expectation Violation of Expectation Response to Violation
Be Safe
  • Horseplay and play fighting
  • Inappropriate physical contact with another person

For Level I violations, school personnel are expected to respond to the behavior by:

  • Reteaching positive expectations
  • Having an individual student conference to discuss the behavior

Additional tools that may be used in the classroom to address Level I behaviors include the following:

  • Buddy room intervention
  • Check in/Check out
  • Communication with a parent or guardian
  • Creating a behavior contract that includes expected behaviors, consequences for infractions, and incentives for demonstrating positive behaviors
  • Fix-it plans/restorative justice strategies
  • Having the student choose a method of apologizing or making amends to those harmed or offended by the student’s behavior
  • Loss of privileges
  • Mediation
  • Nonverbal classroom management strategies
  • Providing a reflective activity
  • Seat change
  • Taking a break
Be Respectful
  • Failure to follow instructions
  • Dress code violation
  • Leaving class without permission
  • Inappropriate language
  • Teasing and name-calling
Be Responsible
  • Cheating and plagiarism 
  • Dishonesty
  • Misuse of property
  • Misuse of technology
  • Tardiness

Since Level I offenses are intended to be addressed in the classroom, RPS expects that classroom teachers will attempt to reteach expectations and conduct an individual student conference for any Level I offense. School personnel may also employ the other strategies outlined in the chart above as appropriate under the circumstances of a specific situation. While responses to Level I infractions will be designed to address student behavior without removing the student from class wherever possible, there are circumstances in which a Level I offense may result in an office referral. School personnel may make an office referral for Level I behavior under the following circumstances:

  • Repeated Level I Offenses - School personnel may make an office referral for a Level I offense if a student has engaged in the same Level I behavior on multiple occasions, the student’s parent or guardian has been involved in efforts to address the student’s behavior, and school personnel have exhausted appropriate options for classroom interventions. Prior to making a referral for repeated Level I behavior, school personnel will do the following: (1) attempt to reteach positive behavior expectations, (2) conduct an individual conference with the student, and (3) communicate with student’s parent or guardian regarding the student’s behavior.
  • Level I Offenses that Involve Level II Behaviors - If a Level I offense includes behavior that falls within a defined Level II offense, the offense will be treated as a Level II offense. For example, misuse of technology is generally considered a Level I offense. However, if a student’s misuse of technology includes behavior that would constitute cyberbullying, harassment, or another Level II offense, the violation will be treated as a Level II offense.
  • Special Circumstances - RPS does not expect school personnel to allow a student to remain in the classroom if the student’s presence would result in a risk of harm to persons or property or significantly disrupt the educational environment in the classroom. For example, if a student engages in the Level I offense of play fighting and continues to engage in the behavior despite efforts to employ interventions, personnel may make an office referral in order to prevent the student from disrupting other students’ rights to receive an education. In addition, a Level I offense will be treated as a Level II offense if a student’s behavior results in bodily injury to the student or another individual. If school personnel make an office referral based on special circumstances, RPS administration expects that the individual who made the referral will be able to explain, upon an administration’s request, (1) what classroom interventions were implemented before the office referral was made; (2) why it was determined that additional classroom interventions would not be successful; and (3) the specific basis for why school personnel believed an office referral was necessary.

Level I Behaviors Defined

Cheating and Plagiarism

Students are expected to do their own work and to provide proper citations and attributions when their work references materials created by others. Cheating occurs when a student represents another individual’s work as the student’s own, obtains data or answers through acts of deception or dishonesty, or uses tools or resources that are not authorized by a teacher when completing an assignment. Plagiarism involves copying the work of others or copying portions of books, magazines, research materials, or Internet sources without using proper citations or attributions. Cheating and plagiarism will be treated as a Level II offense if a student’s conduct involves distributing academic materials or other information to other students, either hand-to-hand or through the use of technology, to facilitate cheating or plagiarism.

Dishonesty

Students are expected to tell the truth. A student is dishonest when the student does not tell the truth or provides information that is misleading

Dress Code Violation

Students are expected to dress appropriately for school as defined in School Board Policy 504.

Failure to Follow Instructions

Students are expected to follow the instruction of all RPS personnel, regardless of whether employed by RPS directly or through a contractor, and volunteers. A student’s failure to follow instructions will generally be considered a Level I offense, unless the student’s conduct includes behavior that is identified as a Level II offense.

Horseplay and Play Fighting

Horseplay and play fighting involves no intent to harm. Behaviors include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) pretending to hit, punch, kick, or otherwise make physical contact with another individual; (2) pranks; (3) rough or boisterous play involving physical contact; and (4) running in the building.

Inappropriate Language

Students are expected to use language that is appropriate in an educational setting. The use of inappropriate language will be considered a Level I offense when it is not directed at a specific person and involves profanity, general sexual connotations or innuendo, put-downs to a particular group of people, or is otherwise not appropriate for a school setting. Isolated references to alcohol, drug and tobacco use, or other illegal behavior will be considered inappropriate language, unless the references are made for an educational purpose in connection with an assignment from a classroom teacher.

Inappropriate Physical Contact with Another Person

Students are expected to keep their hands to themselves. Intentionally touching or making physical contact with another individual, without that individual’s permission, will generally be considered a Level I offense, unless the student’s conduct includes behavior that is identified as a Level II offense.

Leaving Class Without Permission

Students are expected to be in class until they are excused. If a student leaves class before the end of a class period without permission, the student is engaging in behavior that is a Level I offense.

Misuse of Property

Students are expected to be respectful of all property. Misuse of property occurs when a student uses property without permission or uses property in a way that is inconsistent with the intended use of the property. Misuse of Technology Students are expected to utilize technology in a manner that is consistent with the educational mission of RPS. School Board Policy 524 outlines RPS’s expectations for student use of technology. Policy 524 is referenced on page 34. All students are expected to act in accordance with this Policy. Misuse of technology will be considered a Level I violation in situations where a student’s violation of the requirements of School Board Policy 524 does not result in harm or potential harm to the student, another individual, or another individual’s property. Students should be aware that misconduct involving the misuse of technology may also meet the definitions of other offenses outlined in this Handbook. For example, technology could be inappropriately used to engage in cheating or plagiarism. It could also be inappropriately used to engage in behavior that would be considered harassment or discrimination.

Tardiness

All students are expected to be on time for class. Students are considered tardy when not present in class and prepared to receive instruction at the scheduled start time of the class. Elementary students may be considered tardy if they are not on time for school at the beginning of the school day.

Teasing and Name-Calling

Students are expected to be respectful of their peers and to refrain from engaging in teasing or name-calling that is intended to merely distract or annoy others. Teasing and name-calling may be considered a Level II offense if it involves conduct that would violate RPS policies and procedures prohibiting bullying, harassment, hazing, and discrimination.

Level II Offenses

The grid below identifies specific Level II offenses and the manner in which site administrators are expected to respond to Level II offenses after an investigation has been completed.

RPS Expectation Violation of Expectation Response to Violation
Be Safe
  • Arson
  • Fighting
  • Gang activity
  • Possession of weapons, explosives, incendiary devices, or any type of combustible substance
  • Physical aggression
  • Threats of violence

Any of the responses outlined in the Level I grid may be utilized by building administrators in response to a Level II violation. These responses include, but are not limited to:

  • Reteaching positive expectations
  • Having an individual student conference to discuss the behavior
  • Communicating with family

In addition, the following interventions may be utilized:

  • Administrative removal from school for less than one day
  • Conference with student
  • Consultation with or direct service from support staff, such as a counselor, equity specialist, social worker or behavior specialist
  • Expulsion
  • In-School Suspension
  • Interim Alternative Educational Placement
  • Out-of-School Suspension
  • Referral for additional support services
  • Referral to Student Intervention Team
  • Restitution
  • Rochester Alternative to Suspension Program
Be Respectful
  • Abusive language
  • Bullying
  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Hazing
  • Illegal conduct
  • Sexual assault
  • Substantial interruption to the learning environment
  • Trespassing
Be Responsible
  • Possession, distribution or use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco or paraphernalia
  • Property damage
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Theft
  • CST, Special Education, and Section 504 Referrals -  Referrals to a Child Study Team (CST), as well as referrals for Special Education and Section 504 evaluations, will be made in accordance with applicable legal requirements and procedures established by the RPS Student Services Department. Families and RPS personnel may contact the Student Services Department at (507) 328-4310 with questions related to the referral process.
  • In-School Suspension - In-School Suspension (ISS) will be considered as a consequence for a Level II behavior when a building principal, in consultation with instructional staff, has determined that a student’s behavior warrants removing a student from the classroom environment because (1) the student has failed to respond to interventions designed to address prior behavior issues without removing the student from class or (2) it is necessary to temporarily remove the student from classes in order to prevent a disruption to the learning environment. ISS takes place in the regular school building and in a location outside of the general classroom setting. In this setting, students are given a quiet environment which is supervised throughout the day by school staff. Teachers are responsible for providing work for each individual student to complete during the day. During their time in ISS, students will have access to materials to support their learning. Teachers, social workers, and other school personnel are able to meet one-on-one with students during their time in ISS.

School Board Policy 506, consistent with Minnesota law, allows RPS personnel to remove a student from class based upon the following grounds:

a. Willful conduct that significantly disrupts the rights of others to an education, including conduct that interferes with a teacher’s ability to teach or communicate effectively with students in a class or with the ability of other students to learn;
b. Willful conduct that endangers surrounding persons, including school district employees, the student or other students, or the property of the school;
c. Willful violation of any rule of conduct specified in the discipline policy adopted by the board; and
d. Other special circumstances in which a student’s presence in the classroom would result in a risk of harm to persons or property or significantly disrupt the educational environment in the classroom.

Under Minnesota law, a student must be removed from class immediately if the student engages in assault or violent behavior. An “assault” is (1) an act done with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or (2) the intentional infliction of or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another.

  • Interim Alternative Educational Placements -  RPS may unilaterally change the student’s educational placement for a student receiving special education services / 504 plan up to 45 school days if the student:

a. Possesses a dangerous weapon at school, on school premises, or at a school function;
b. Carries a dangerous weapon to school, on school premises, or at a school function;
c. Knowingly possesses or uses illegal drugs at school, on school premises, or at a school function;
d. Sells or solicits the sale of a controlled substance while at school, on school premises, or at a school function;
e. Has inflicted serious bodily injury upon another person while at school, on school premises, or at a school function.

The IEP team determines the interim alternative educational setting at which the student will be placed. Even though this is a temporary change, the setting must allow the student:

a. To continue to progress in the general curriculum, although in a different setting;
b. To continue to receive those services and modifications, including those described in the student’s IEP, that will help the student meet his or her IEP goals; and
c. Include services and modifications designed to prevent the behavior from recurring.

If the student is placed in an interim alternative educational setting, an IEP team meeting must be convened within ten school days of the decision. At this meeting, the team must discuss the behavior and its relationship to the student’s disability, review evaluation information regarding the behavior, consider teacher observations, parent/guardian input, and determine the appropriateness of the student’s IEP and any behavior plan.

  • Out-of-School Suspension - Minnesota law allows RPS to impose an out-of-school suspension whenever a student engages in the following: (1) Willful violation of any school board regulation. Such regulation must be clear and definite to provide notice to students that they must conform their conduct to its requirements; (2) Willful conduct that significantly disrupts the rights of others to an education, or the ability of school personnel to perform their duties, or school sponsored extracurricular activities; or (3) Willful conduct that endangers the student or other students, or surrounding persons, including school district employees, or property of the school.

RPS administration strives to avoid out-of-school suspensions when other interventions may effectively address a student’s behavior. To that end, RPS administrators generally reserve out-of-school suspensions for the following situations:

  • Possession or distribution of drugs or alcohol;
  • Possession of a weapon or incendiary device; and
  • A Level II offense resulting in bodily or emotional harm. 

“Bodily or emotional harm” means physical or emotional pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of physical or emotional condition. RPS reserves the right to impose an out-of-school suspension in situations where it is determined that other interventions or consequences would not be an effective means to address behavior concerns. Prior to imposing an out-of-school suspension, that is not one of the three defined situations, building administrators must contact the RPS Executive Director of Elementary and Secondary Education, or the designee communicated to administrators at the beginning of each school year, to determine whether any similar situations have occurred in the past and, if so, how RPS has responded to previous similar situations.

The first suspension a student receives will typically be between one and three days. Subsequent suspensions for the same conduct may be up to ten days in duration. A general education student may be suspended for up to fifteen days in cases involving a proposed expulsion. Specific requirements addressing suspensions of special education students are outlined in the Appendix to this Handbook.

  • Expulsion - Under Minnesota law, an “expulsion” is an action by the RPS School Board to prohibit an enrolled student from further attendance at school for up to twelve months.

Minnesota law allows RPS to pursue expulsion whenever a student engages in the following: (1) Willful violation of any school board regulation. Such regulation must be clear and definite to provide notice to students that they must conform their conduct to its requirements; (2) Willful conduct that significantly disrupts the rights of others to an education, or the ability of school personnel to perform their duties, or school sponsored extracurricular activities; or (3) Willful conduct that endangers the student or other students, or surrounding persons, including school district employees, or property of the school.

Minnesota law requires RPS to pursue expulsion when a student is in possession of a firearm on school grounds. See Minn. Stat. § 121A.44. In other situations, no administrator may move forward with a proposed expulsion unless the RPS Superintendent has reviewed the facts underlying the proposed discipline and has authorized an expulsion. In addition, all expulsions must be specifically authorized by the RPS School Board in accordance with the procedures outlined in Minnesota’s Pupil Fair Dismissal Act. See Minn. Stat. § 121A.47.

The RPS administration will consider pursuing an expulsion or exclusion in any situation where a student was selling or distributing drugs or alcohol, a student was in possession of a weapon or incendiary device, or a student’s continued attendance in RPS schools may result in a significant likelihood of bodily or emotional harm to the student or other individuals, a risk of legal liability for RPS or any RPS employees, or in other unique circumstances where it is determined that other interventions or consequences would not be an effective means to address the student’s behavior.

Minnesota law also allows RPS to impose disciplinary action that is similar to an expulsion when an individual who has engaged in misconduct seeks to enroll in a RPS school. This disciplinary action is called an “exclusion.” An exclusion is an action taken by the RPS School Board to prevent enrollment or re-enrollment of a student for a period that must not extend beyond the school year. RPS applies the same standards to exclusions as it does to expulsions.

  • Alternative Educational Services and Readmission Plans -  Minnesota law generally requires RPS to attempt to provide alternative educational services to a student before it imposes a suspension, expulsion, or exclusion. This requirement does not apply in situations where it appears a student will create an immediate and substantial danger to the student, to surrounding persons, or to property. RPS also will offer alternative educational services to a student with a disability to the extent the student receives a suspension that exceeds five days. If a student is suspended pending an expulsion proceeding, RPS will offer alternative educational services beginning on the sixth day of suspension.

Minnesota law provides that alternative educational services may include, but are not limited to, special tutoring, modified curriculum, modified instruction, other modifications or adaptations, instruction through electronic media, special education services as indicated by appropriate assessment, homebound instruction, supervised homework, or enrollment in another district or in an alternative learning center selected to allow the pupil to progress toward meeting graduation standards in a different setting. See Minn. Stat. § 121A.41, subd. 11.

When RPS offers alternative educational services, RPS will offer the services that RPS deems most appropriate in light of available RPS resources and a particular student’s behaviors and needs.

In situations where a student is suspended, expelled, excluded, placed in an alternative disciplinary setting, or incarcerated as a direct result of RPS’s referral of the student to law enforcement, RPS staff will schedule a readmission conference before the student transitions back into the regular school community. During the readmission conference, staff will consider whether it would be appropriate to develop a readmission plan, which may include the provision of alternative educational services. As required by Minnesota law, RPS staff will develop a readmission plan for a student who has been expelled or excluded from school in accordance with the Pupil Fair Dismissal Act. The plan may include measures to improve the student’s behavior and require parent or guardian involvement in the admission or readmission process. The plan may also indicate consequences if the student does not improve his or her behavior.

Level II Behaviors Defined

Abusive Language

Abusive language consists of verbal abuse directed at a specific person, such as a teacher or classmate. Verbal abuse is the improper or excessive use of language to humiliate someone, to undermine someone’s dignity, or to undermine someone’s authority. Profanity and insults specifically directed at an individual are considered a form of verbal abuse.

Arson

Arson is the unauthorized, intentional burning of one’s own property or someone else’s property.

Bullying

School Board Policy 514 specifically addresses bullying. Policy 514 is referenced on page 34. Policy 514 defines bullying as it is defined in Minn. Stat. § 121A.031. Bullying is defined by Policy 514 and state law as follows:

“Bullying” means intimidating, threatening, abusive, or harming conduct that is objectively offensive and:

  1. There is an actual or perceived imbalance of power between the student engaging in prohibited conduct and the target of the behavior and the conduct is repeated or forms a pattern; or
  2. Materially and substantially interferes with a student's educational opportunities or performance or ability to participate in school functions or activities or receive school benefits, services, or privileges.

“Intimidating, threatening, abusive, or harming conduct” includes, but is not limited to, conduct that:

  1. Causes physical harm to a student or a student’s property or causes a student to be in reasonable fear of harm to person or property;
  2. Under Minnesota common law, violates a student’s reasonable expectation of privacy, defames a student, or constitutes intentional infliction of emotional distress against a student; or
  3. Is directed at any student or students, including those based on a person’s actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, national origin, immigration status, sex, marital status, familial status, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, sexual orientation including gender identity or expression, academic status related to student performance, disability, or status with regard to public assistance, age, or any additional characteristic defined in the Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”). However, prohibited conduct need not be based on any particular characteristic defined in this paragraph or the MHRA.

Bullying includes “cyberbullying,” which is defined as follows:

Bullying using technology or other electronic communication, including, but not limited to, a transfer of a sign, signal, writing, image, sound, or data, including a post on a social network Internet website or forum, transmitted through a computer, cell phone, or other electronic device. The term applies to prohibited conduct which occurs on school premises, on school district property, at school functions or activities, on school transportation, or on school computers, networks, forums, and mailing lists, or off school premises to the extent that it substantially and materially disrupts student learning or the school environment.

To report an incident of bullying, students and/or families may contact their building administrator or complete the RPS Tip Line form.

Discrimination

School Board Policy 102 states that the policy of RPS is to ensure an equal educational opportunity is provided for all students. To that end, RPS prohibits students from engaging in acts of discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, gender, marital status, parental status, status with regard to public assistance, disability, sexual orientation, or age. 

Fighting

Fighting is defined as hitting, kicking, punching, pushing, shoving, or tripping another individual who is a mutual combatant in a physical altercation. Fighting is distinguishable from physical aggression because physical aggression does not involve a mutual combatant. Physical contact initiated in self-defense may be considered a mitigating factor in the event of a fight, but only if the student acting in self-defense is (1) physically unable to walk away from the fight and (2) uses only the amount of physical force reasonably necessary to prevent the student from incurring bodily injury. A student is not engaging in self-defense if the student uses physical force to exceed the level of force needed to walk away from the fight.

Gang Activity

Gangs are groups of persons who act in concert for the purpose of engaging in anti-social or criminal behavior. Gang activities include:

  1. Wearing or displaying any clothing, jewelry, colors, or insignia that intentionally identifies the student as a member of a gang or otherwise symbolizes support of a gang;
  2. Using any word, phrase, written symbol, or gesture that intentionally identifies the student as a member of a gang or otherwise symbolizes support of a gang;
  3. Recruiting students for gangs; and
  4. Engaging in criminal or anti-social behavior at the direction of another gang member.

Harassment

School Board Policy 413 prohibits acts of harassment and violence on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, gender, age, marital status, familial status, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, or disability. Policy 413 generally defines harassment as behavior that consists of physical or verbal conduct, including, but not limited to, electronic communications, relating to an individual’s or group of individuals’ race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, gender, age, marital status, familial status, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, or disability when the conduct:

  1. Has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or academic environment; 
  2. Has the purpose or effect of substantially or unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance; or
  3. Otherwise adversely affects an individual’s employment or academic opportunities.

Policy 413 prohibits violence in the form of a physical act of aggression or assault upon another or group of individuals because of, or in a manner reasonably related to, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, familial status, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, or disability.

Hazing

School Board Policy 526 specifically addresses hazing. Hazing is defined as committing an act against a student, or coercing a student into committing an act, that creates a substantial risk of harm to a person, in order for the student to be initiated into or affiliated with a student organization, or for any other school-related purpose. The term hazing includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Any type of physical brutality such as whipping, beating, striking, branding, electronic shocking, or placing a harmful substance on the body;
  2. Any type of physical activity such as sleep deprivation, exposure to weather, confinement in a restricted area, calisthenics or other activity that subjects the student to an unreasonable risk of harm or that adversely affects the mental or physical health or safety of the student;
  3. Any activity involving the consumption of any alcoholic beverage, drug, tobacco product, or any other food, liquid, or substance that subjects the student to an unreasonable risk of harm or that adversely affects the mental or physical health or safety of the student;
  4. Any activity that intimidates or threatens the student with ostracism, that subjects a student to extreme mental stress, embarrassment, shame or humiliation, that adversely affects the mental health or dignity of the student or discourages the student from remaining in school; and
  5. Any activity that causes or requires the student to perform a task that involves violation of state or federal law or of RPS policies or regulations.

Illegal Conduct

Any violation of local, state, or federal law will be considered a Level II offense.

Physical Aggression

Physical aggression is defined as hitting, kicking, pushing, shoving, tripping, and other similar acts of physical conduct carried out with an intent to cause harm to another individual. Physical aggression does not include conduct that falls within the definition of horseplay, play fighting, or fighting.

Possession of Weapons, Explosives, Incendiary Devices, or Combustible Substances - School Board Policy 501 prohibits students from possessing, using, or distributing weapons. A “weapon” includes any object, device, or instrument designed as a weapon or through its use is capable of threatening or producing bodily harm or which may be used to inflict self-injury including, but not limited to, any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded; air guns; pellet guns; BB guns; rifles, pistols, stun guns; all knives; blades; clubs; metal knuckles; nunchucks (nunchaku); throwing stars; explosives; any combustible or flammable liquid; fireworks; tear gas, mace and other propellants; ammunition; poisons; chains; arrows; and objects that have been modified to serve as a weapon. Students are also prohibited from possessing, using, or distributing items that are intended to look like a weapon. Students are also prohibited from possessing, using, or distributing any kind of incendiary device, regardless of whether the device meets the definition of a weapon. Incendiary devices include any object, device, instrument, or substance designed to start a fire or to emit smoke, sparks, or fire, including, but not limited to, gasoline and other accelerants, matches, butane lighters, fireworks, firecrackers, smoke bombs, and bombs. Students must not possess, use, or distribute items that are intended to look like an incendiary device. Students are not prohibited from using an incendiary device in connection with a legitimate classroom activity at the direction and under the supervision of RPS personnel.

Possession of Weapons, Explosives, Incendiary Devices, or Combustible Substances

School Board Policy 501 prohibits students from possessing, using, or distributing weapons. A “weapon” includes any object, device, or instrument designed as a weapon or through its use is capable of threatening or producing bodily harm or which may be used to inflict self-injury including, but not limited to, any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded; air guns; pellet guns; BB guns; rifles, pistols, stun guns; all knives; blades; clubs; metal knuckles; nunchucks (nunchaku); throwing stars; explosives; any combustible or flammable liquid; fireworks; tear gas, mace and other propellants; ammunition; poisons; chains; arrows; and objects that have been modified to serve as a weapon. Students are also prohibited from possessing, using, or distributing items that are intended to look like a weapon. Students are also prohibited from possessing, using, or distributing any kind of incendiary device, regardless of whether the device meets the definition of a weapon. Incendiary devices include any object, device, instrument, or substance designed to start a fire or to emit smoke, sparks, or fire, including, but not limited to, gasoline and other accelerants, matches, butane lighters, fireworks, firecrackers, smoke bombs, and bombs. Students must not possess, use, or distribute items that are intended to look like an incendiary device. Students are not prohibited from using an incendiary device in connection with a legitimate classroom activity at the direction and under the supervision of RPS personnel.

Possession, Distribution, or Use of Alcohol, Drugs, and Tobacco or Paraphernalia

Students may not possess, distribute, or use alcohol, drugs, or tobacco (including synthetic or lookalike substances) or paraphernalia inside school buildings, on school grounds, and at school-related activities and events. Students must also follow these expectations on school buses or vans and at bus stops. Paraphernalia is any equipment, utensil, apparatus, or tool used in connection with alcohol, drug, or tobacco use.

Property Damage

Property damage will be a Level II violation when it involves the intentional damage, destruction, vandalism, or breaking of another individual’s property or RPS property. By way of example, property damage includes intentional acts such as damaging or destroying textbooks and other school equipment, using technology to download or deploy unauthorized or malicious software, spray painting surfaces, acts of vandalism, and damaging or destroying the property of another student.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the individual who is the recipient of the contact or behavior.

Sexual Misconduct

Sexual misconduct includes verbal attempts to initiate sexual contact with another person and any form of touching of a sexual nature, with or without consent of the other party. Sexual misconduct also includes exchanging pornographic, obscene, or otherwise sexually suggestive photographs or messages with another person, including behavior commonly referred to as “sexting.” Pornographic material or pornography is defined as material (such as writings, photographs, or videos) depicting sexual activity or erotic behavior in a way that is designed to arouse sexual excitement.

Substantial Interruption to the Learning Environment

A substantial interruption to the learning environment occurs when a student engages in behavior that interferes with the learning environment in a school building to the degree that RPS personnel are unable to deliver instruction to other students. Students do not have the right to interfere with other students’ right to receive an education. If a teacher or other personnel makes an office referral for a substantial interruption to the learning environment, the staff member must describe to building administration the specific interventions that were attempted before the student’s behavior was determined to cause a substantial interruption. If the teacher or personnel did not attempt an intervention, the staff member must describe to building administration why it was determined an intervention would not be successful.

Theft

Theft is the taking of another person’s property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. For purposes of this Handbook, theft includes extortion. Extortion is the act of obtaining something through threats of force or coercion.

Threats of Violence

Threats of violence are either direct or indirect threats to commit an act of violence for the purpose of causing serious inconvenience or disruption in the school environment or to cause the evacuation of a school building, event, or vehicle. A bomb threat is an example of a threat of violence.

Trespassing

Students must stay in designated areas of the school to which they have been assigned. Students must have permission from a building administrator, or must be escorted by a parent, guardian, caregiver, or emergency contact person, if they enter a building other than their school. Trespassing includes breaking and entering into locked or private areas, such as other students’ lockers, administrative office areas, and supply cabinets.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are frequently asked questions about RPS discipline:

Who should families contact with questions related to discipline issues?

If a family has questions or concerns related to a specific Level I incident, a student’s classroom teacher is the best person to contact for an initial discussion related to the incident. For Level II incidents, families should contact the building principal if they have questions or concerns related to a specific incident. If a family would like to file a complaint about the manner in which school staff handled a disciplinary matter, the complaint should be directed to the RPS Discipline Supervisor, Afolabi Runsewe. Inquiries, questions, or concerns that are related to RPS’s policies and procedures for student discipline generally, such as general concerns related to fairness or non-discrimination, also should be directed to Mr. Runsewe in his capacity as the RPS Discipline Supervisor.

What is the role of a police liaison officer?

Police liaison officers are not RPS employees. RPS expects police liaison officers to demonstrate professionalism at all times and to act as a positive role model for students. Their role in the school setting is outlined in a contract between RPS and the City of Rochester. The primary role of a police liaison officer is to deter and address criminal activity on school property and at school-sponsored events and activities. Police liaison officers are not involved in determining student discipline and they are not involved in addressing student misconduct that does not involve suspected criminal conduct.

RPS staff will consult with police liaison officers to the extent necessary to report any potential criminal activity at school or a school-sponsored event or activity. Potentially criminal behavior may be referred to law enforcement even if it does not involve violent or threatening behavior. For example, theft, intentional damage to property, possession or distribution of drugs or alcohol, and trespassing are examples of behavior that may be referred to law enforcement without necessarily involving violent or threatening behavior. In addition, RPS staff will consult with police liaison officers to the extent necessary to comply with mandatory reporting obligations, such as the obligation to report suspected maltreatment of minors under Minn. Stat. § 626.556. To the extent permitted by State and Federal law, RPS staff may also disclose information to law enforcement in emergency situations where law enforcement’s knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of a student or other individuals.

How does RPS address attendance issues?

School Board Policy 503 generally outlines RPS’s expectations with respect to student attendance. As noted above, isolated instances in which a student is tardy will be handled at the classroom level as a Level I offense. Repeated tardiness may warrant an office referral. Unexcused absences are otherwise addressed outside of the traditional Level I and Level II offense framework in light of specific statutory provisions related to compulsory school attendance. In accordance with Minnesota law, RPS works in partnership with the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office to address truancy issues pursuant to the following intervention procedures:

  • If a student has between three and five unexcused absences, a letter is mailed to the student’s parent or guardian.
  • After a fifth unexcused absence, the student and his or her parent or guardian is invited to attend a parent information meeting with a representative of the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office. During the parent information meeting, the family will be advised of why the student should attend school and the legal consequences associated with continued absences. RPS will work with families to develop specific interventions to address attendance issues following the parent information meeting.
  • If a student continues to have unexcused absences after the parent intervention meeting, the student and his or her parent or guardian will be invited to participate in a Student Attendance Review Team (“SART”) meeting and to develop a contract designed to improve the student’s attendance.
  • If the student continues to have unexcused absences after the SART meeting, RPS will work with the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office to initiate appropriate legal proceedings, such as a Child in Need of Protection or Services (“CHIPS”) petition based on neglect or truancy.

How does RPS treat behavior on school buses and vans?

Transportation by RPS is generally a privilege and not a right. Students are expected to comply with the provisions of this Handbook and all other transportation-related rules communicated to them while they are at bus stops and while they are receiving RPS-provided transportation. School Board Policy 709 outlines specific RPS expectations for student behavior while students receive RPS-provided transportation. RPS provides annual school bus safety training to students who are in Kindergarten through Grade 10. A student’s eligibility to receive transportation may be suspended or revoked if the student persistently engages in Level I offenses or engages in a Level II offense while on a bus or van or while at a bus stop.

How does RPS treat behavior in school parking lots?

School parking lots are considered school grounds for purposes of implementing RPS discipline policies and procedures. The same behavioral expectations that apply in school buildings apply in school parking lots. Parking on school grounds is a privilege, not a right. Students only may park in areas that are designated for student parking. In addition to the behavioral consequences outlined in this Handbook, students who engage in misconduct in an RPS parking lot may have their parking privileges suspended or revoked. If a student parks in an unauthorized area or if an unauthorized vehicle is parked in a RPS parking lot, RPS may move the vehicle, require the owner to move the vehicle, or have the vehicle removed from RPS property and towed to a location off RPS grounds at the owner’s expense. Student vehicles parked on RPS property may be subject to a search if RPS personnel have a reasonable suspicion that the search will uncover evidence of illegal conduct or a violation of RPS rules and policies. School Board Policy 527 specifically addresses student use and parking of motor vehicles. 

Is there an appeals process for student discipline?

Minnesota’s Pupil Fair Dismissal Act provides for an appeals process in situations involving a student expulsion or exclusion. See Minn. Stat. § 121A.47. There is not a formal appeals process for other forms of discipline. As noted earlier, families who believe a disciplinary matter was not handled properly at the building level may contact Mr. Runsewe in his capacity as the RPS Discipline Supervisor. Mr. Runsewe serves as a resource to help resolve complaints related to specific disciplinary incidents.

Does RPS have recommended resources to assist families with developing self-management skills?

Yes. Information about these resources may be obtained from Mr. Runsewe, the RPS Discipline Supervisor, or a building principal. Self-management resources include the following:

Preschool and Elementary Students:

Middle and High School Students:

Discipline Guidelines for Special Education

  IEP Team Meeting Required Manifestation Determination Required 1 Functional Behavioral Assessment Plan Required 2 Alternative Education Services Required
Student removed for one school day or less No* No* No* No*
Student suspended for less than five consecutive school days or less No* No* No* No*
Student suspended for six or more consecutive school days Yes No* No* Yes
Student removed for 10 cumulative days or less in a school year or more No* No* No* No*
Student removed for 11 cumulative days in a school year or more Yes Yes Yes Yes
Student placed on in-school suspension No** No** No** No**
Student suspended from the bus Depends*** Depends*** Depends*** Depends***

1 “Manifestation Determination” is a process to determine if a student’s behavior problem was or was not a manifestation of the student’s disability.

2 A “Functional Behavioral Assessment” is a process for gathering information to understand the structure and function of a student’s behavior(s) in order to develop an effective and efficient behavioral support plan that teaches and encourages alternative behaviors.

* Unless the student has been removed 11 or more cumulative days in a school year. Minn. Stat. 121A.43(a).

** In-school suspension is not considered a day of suspension for a student with a disability as long as the student continues to receive regular and special education services during the in-school suspension.

*** If bus transportation is part of the student’s IEP, a bus suspension would be treated as a removal unless the school provides transportation in some other way, because that transportation is necessary for the student to obtain access to the location where all other services will be delivered. If bus transportation is not a part of the student’s IEP, a bus suspension typically would not be a removal.

District Policy 506

First page of the PDF file: DistrictPolicy506

Click the image to the left to review District Policy 506 on student discipline. This policy can also be viewed on the District BoardDocs website, School Board Policy 506 – Student Discipline.

Student Health

In order to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for all students and staff, RPS will follow public health guidelines for health related policies and communicable disease. It is the responsibility of the parent or guardian to notify the Health Office at the student’s school regarding health concerns or changes in student health status. For more information, contact your school Health Office or the Health Services web page.

When a student is sick, parents often wonder whether or not to keep a child at home from school. Staying home and resting will help the body fight the sickness and is one of the best ways to keep others from becoming ill. For more information regarding appropriate times to keep your child at home, visit the Health Services web page.

Infectious Diseases

By law, a number of infectious diseases must be reported to the Minnesota Department of Health. The health office should be notified when a student has a communicable disease (e.g. chicken pox, strep throat, pertussis, norovirus) so appropriate measures may be taken. Notices may be sent home with other students when these conditions occur in a classroom. For a list of common childhood diseases, symptoms, communicability, and source of infection, please visit the Minnesota Department of Health website.

Head Lice

In order to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for all students and staff, RPS will follow public health guidelines for head lice and communicable diseases. Head lice infestation is a common problem among students. Although they are a nuisance, head lice do not transmit disease. School transmission is rare. If students are found to have live lice in their hair, parent/guardians will be contacted by a health office staff member. The students may remain in school until the end of the school day and return to school after the first application of treatment has been completed per directions sent home with the students.

Vision and Hearing Screenings

Students will be screened to identify potential vision or hearing concerns. The screenings are not intended to replace professional examinations. Students in first grade will have a vision and hearing screening. Students in third and seventh grades will only have a vision screening. Vision and hearing screenings will also be performed on elementary and middle school students new to Rochester Public Schools. If you wish your child to be excluded from either or both of these screenings, please notify your student’s health office at the beginning of every school year. Vision and/or hearing screenings may also be performed for a student if there is parent or teacher concern. Parents will be notified through a referral process if the student does not pass either screening.

Rules, Rights, and Regulations

Parents and Guardians should familiarize themselves with these policies. RPS policies in their entirety are located on RPS BoardDocs website.

100 - School District
400 – Employees and Personnel
500 – Students
700 – Business
800 – Buildings and Sites
900 – School District-Community Relations

MN Statewide Testing

Testing is used in schools to measure student achievement. State tests are given to students in a district once a year, based on their grade level and subject area. Classroom tests are given by individual teachers on a more regular basis and may include quizzes, mid-terms, chapter tests, and final exams, among others. Both types of tests give educators an idea of how well their students are learning the concepts presented to them in the classroom. 

Minnesota Department of Education provides a variety of resources on its website to address statewide testing including the Parent/Guardian Guide and Refusal for Student Participation in Statewide Testing Form below.

First page of the PDF file: MDEParentGuardianStatewideTestingandRefusalForm

The MDE testing guide is also available in other languages. Please use the documents below: 

For any questions, please contact our bilingual specialists at (507) 328-4327.

First page of the PDF file: StudentHandbook2018-2019

Download a printable version of the Student Handbook for the 2018-2019 School year:

The student handbook is also available in other languages. Please use the documents below: 

For any questions, please contact our bilingual specialists at (507) 328-4327.