15, 2016.37 This legislation will require school districts to make significant changes to the content
of their discipline policies to further align with prevention-oriented practices and to justify the use
of suspension and expulsion.38
Discipline codes of conduct, as they currently stand, would need to undergo substantial
revisions to align with the practices presented in the federal documents and with the new changes
in Illinois law.39 Content analysis of written codes of conduct reveal that written discipline policies
primarily contain punitive disciplinary options that focus on suspension and expulsion, with few
written references to more proactive measures, such as restorative practices, or to direct teaching
of expected behaviors, even for minor behaviors unrelated to school safety such as tardiness and
truancy.40 This approach stands in stark contrast to the requirements of the new Illinois law, which
mandates that school districts limit the use of suspension and expulsion “to the greatest extent
practicable”41 and that they exhaust “appropriate and available behavioral and disciplinary
interventions” before imposing out-of-school suspensions of more than three days, expulsions, and
disciplinary transfers to alternative schools.42 These legislative limits on exclusionary discipline
dovetail with the USDOE and USDOJ guidance letter on discipline that commends schools that
utilize non-punitive strategies to address student behaviors, such as “conflict resolution, restorative
practices, counseling, and structured systems of positive interventions.”43 Within the state of
Illinois and across the nation, there remains a significant need for more tools to enable districts to
comply with recent legislative mandates and federal guidance, as well as to achieve the broader
objective of engaging in effective discipline and educational practices to proactively prevent and
respond to student misbehavior in schools. Further, tools that are effective to enable all students to
be successful, including those traditionally marginalized and excluded through disciplinary
practices, are paramount.
This Article will focus on describing a multi-agency collaborative and interdisciplinary
effort within the state of Illinois involving attorneys, advocates, and school psychologists to
develop a “Model Student Code of Conduct.” The intent of the model code project is to provide
schools and school districts with a best practice document that can be used as a reference to align
with the recent discipline legislation passed within the state.44 The collaborative, known as the
Transforming School Discipline Collaborative (TSDC), developed a training program for school
administrators, which focuses on implementation of the model code and compliance with the state
legislation. The aim of the model code and the training program is to support districts in
implementing appropriate and research-based alternatives to exclusionary school discipline
policies. This professional development project is guided by the current efforts of national groups
37 Act effective Sept. 15, 2016, Pub. Act 99-0456 (2015) (to be codified as amended in scattered sections of 105 ILL.
COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/). For clarity, references to specific sections of this act will be to the amended version of the
38 See id.
39 Compare Fenning et al., supra note 2, with U.S. DEP’T OF EDUC., GUIDING PRINCIPLES, supra note 8, and Pub. Act
99-0456 (complying with the limitations on the use of out-of-school discipline that are suggested by the federal
guidelines and required by this new Illinois law will require a shift away from the punitive responses to student
behaviors typically found in student codes of conduct toward a focus on available interventions and supports).
40 Fenning et al., supra note 2, at 111–12.
41 105 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/10-22.6(b-5) (West 2015).
42 Id. at 5/10-22.6(b-20). There are limited exceptions to this provision for offenses involving weapons and internet
threats. See id. 5/10-22.6(b-20), (d), & (d-5).
43 U.S. Dep’t of Justice & U.S. Dep’t of Educ., Dear Colleague Letter, supra note 24, at 1.