Gwinnett County Public Schools expanded its code of conduct rules to include specifics for student athletes -- on and off the field -- beginning with the 2012-2013 school year.
According to a press release, the rules include higher expectations and "consistent consequences" for the violation of these rules. The new rules focus on student athletes as "representatives" of the Gwinnett County school district.
The county's board of education approved the rules in the spring.
"As a district, we feel that it is important for students and parents to understand that when a student chooses to participate in these activities, he or she is going to be held to a higher standard," said Mike Emery, the school district’s director of athletics, activities, and community schools, in a press release.
He added: "We believe that if the students and parents know up front what the expectations of behavior are and what the potential consequences could be for engaging in unacceptable behavior, we will minimize the potential for bad decisions. We hold the students who participate in extracurricular activities in high esteem, with that comes added responsibility."
The district has been working on the new rules since 2009. Coincidentally, the rules, which include punishment for hazing, come after the DeKalb County school system launched an investigation into the act. The inquiry followed the hazing death of Robert Champion, a marching band member at Florida A&M University and graduate of Southwest DeKalb High School.
The rules will be in effect 24 hours everyday, including weekends and holidays and breaks when school is not in session. And, they will be imposed the first day a student signs up to participate in a sport.
All students will be able to find the new rules inside the code of conduct book distributed at the beginning of the school year.
"Our goal is not to catch kids doing bad things but to get kids to think about consequences for their actions before they engage in unacceptable behaviors," Emery said in a press release.
New student-athlete rules are:
- If given long-term suspension (exceeds 10 days), athletes will be ineligible to attend or participate in any athletic or extracurricular activity during time of suspension.
- If arrested or charged with any act that is a felony or would constitute a felony if committed by an adult, (regardless of location or time of the alleged act), there will be immediate suspension from sports until: the school determines the student is cleared; a prosecutor drops the charges; student pleads guilty to a misdemeanor; the student serves the required time, including probation.
- If athletes use tobacco of any kind, there is discretion on punishment by the individual school for the first infraction. For the second time, there will be suspension from the sport for a minimum of 10 percent of the remainder of the season. A third offense means an athlete will be dismissed from the team, but when the season ends for that sport, they can try out for other activities.
- If athletes are found using or in possession of drugs or other misdemeanors, a school authority will meet with the parents, and on the first offense the school district determines the appropriate consequence. On the second offense, there will be suspension from athletic extracurricular competition for a minimum of 20 percent of the remainder of the season. And, on the third offense, there will be suspension from all athletic extracurricular activities for the remainder of the school year.
- If a student violates any rule that results in in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension (short-term), he or she may not participate in the sport until the day after being released from in-school suspension, and in short-term suspension, students can return to regular sports participation after the suspension is served.
- If student athletes are found to be involved in hazing, there will be a meeting with the student and his or her parents. In addition, for the first offense, the student will be suspended from athletic competition for a minimum of 10 percent of the rest of the school year. For the second offense, a student will be suspended from all sports for the rest of the school year.
Coaches and teams have discretion to set punishments about the aforementioned minimum standards.