Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators
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What Every Educator Should Know About Classroom Discipline

Another pandemic-related challenge teachers are facing this school year is an increase in student misbehavior. Whether caused by a year of isolation or other factors, we have seen a dramatic increase in teachers struggling to maintain classroom discipline, making it a good time to review some basics about student discipline. 

Removing a student from the classroom  

A district’s student code of conduct specifies when students can be removed to disciplinary alternative education programs (DAEPs), suspended, or expelled.  

The Texas Education Code provides that a teacher can temporarily remove a student to the principal’s office to maintain effective classroom discipline. The Education Code also provides that a teacher can remove a student from class and initially refuse to consent to the student’s return if the student has repeatedly or seriously interfered with either the teacher’s ability to communicate or other students’ ability to learn. The interference can be a pattern of behaviors or one serious incident. 

If a teacher removes a student for disruptive behavior, the student may be returned to that teacher’s class only if the campus placement review committee determines that the prior placement is the best or only available alternative. 

The Education Code also provides a list of student misconduct that either allows or requires the student to be removed from the student’s normal educational placement and placed in a disciplinary alternative educational placement (DAEP). 

Students may be suspended for no more than three school days at a time. Students must be expelled for a certain set of serious offenses and may be expelled for some offenses occurring at a campus or school-sponsored event.  

Students may be expelled for specific offenses committed against other students regardless of whether the offense occurred on or off campus. Students also may be expelled for assault resulting in bodily injury against a school district employee or a volunteer or other specific offenses. 

In most cases, a student can be returned to a teacher’s class after a DAEP removal or suspension. However, there are exceptions. If a teacher made a mandatory removal to a DAEP due to an aggravated assault, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault occurring on campus or at a school-sponsored event, the student may not be returned to the teacher’s class without that teacher’s consent. If a student is removed for assaulting the teacher resulting in bodily injury, the student may not be returned to the teacher’s class without the teacher’s consent. If a student is in the juvenile justice system for an act that occurred in class, the student may not be returned to the teacher’s class in which the offense occurred without that teacher’s consent. 

All discipline laws apply to all students regardless of age, with two exceptions: 

  • Students younger than 10 years old cannot be expelled from school except for carrying a firearm to school.  
  • Students younger than 6 years old cannot be removed to an off-campus DAEP and must instead receive on-campus consequences, except in cases of carrying a firearm to school. 

What does Texas law say about corporal punishment? 

Each school district determines whether to allow corporal punishment. All educators must know and follow their local district’s corporal punishment policy. In addition to negative employment consequences that can result from violating the district’s policy, an educator can find themselves sued without the protections normally provided.  

Prohibited aversive discipline techniques 

Certain specific “aversive discipline techniques” defined in 37.0023 of the Texas Education Code are prohibited. Many of the listed techniques, such as electric shocks or impairing a student’s breathing or circulation, are obviously improper. But educators should be aware of some prohibitions that are not so clearly inappropriate. For example, the list prohibits anything that “inhibits a student’s ability to speak.” This codifies what should be understood: In no situation should an educator put tape over a student’s mouth, even in “fun.” The list also prohibits withholding food. Elementary school teachers need to rethink the common consequence of a student not getting their afternoon snack because of morning misbehavior. Finally, the list includes denial of access to the restroom. Teachers will likely have campus or class rules about when students may be excused to the restroom. These rules can still be applied, but teachers need to be sure that if they are going to tell a student they cannot be excused, that they have a rule they can point to and are not denying the student’s request as a punishment.   

For more detailed information about student discipline, please visit the ATPE website at


The legal information provided here is accurate as of the date of publication. It is provided here is for informative purposes only. Individual legal situations vary greatly, and readers needing individual legal advice should consult directly with an attorney. Please note: Rights based on the Texas Education Code may not apply to all. Many Texas Education Code provisions do not apply to public charter schools, and public school districts may have opted out of individual provisions through a District of Innovation plan. Eligible ATPE members may contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department. 


Author: Paul Tapp, ATPE Managing Attorney