School Rules and Student Responsibilities

Note: This information is from our manual, Discipline in Public Schools. Each school district is responsible for adopting policies and procedures that describe the rights and expectations for students in their district. School districts must develop those policies and procedures through a process that allows input from the whole school community that includes teachers, staff, family and students.

Are there rules that apply in every public school in the state?

Yes, there are some rules that apply to students across the state. Students have to attend school regularly. (You can learn more about attendance requirements in our Attendance Toolkit, in the Education Issues section of our website,, or by clicking here: /education-issues-topics/attendance-and-truancy/). Here are some additional rules all schools have:

  • School Bus: If students ride the school bus, they have to follow the bus rules and the driver's directions.
  • Bullying/Harassment: All schools are required to have policies prohibiting bullying and harassment, and your child's school should take time to make sure students understand what that means, and how to follow the rules to avoid bullying or harassment.
  • Alcohol/Drugs/Tobacco: Students are not allowed to bring cigarettes or other tobacco products, alcohol, or illegal drugs to school.
  • Weapons: Students are not allowed to bring guns or other weapons to school or have them in their possession when they are there.
  • Gangs: Students are not allowed to participate in gangs or gang-related activity at school. State law defines a “gang” to mean a group of three or more people, with a leader, that regularly plans and acts together to do illegal things.

Where can I find the rules for my child's school?

Look in the student or parent handbook, or ask for the rules at the school. Also, check your school district's policy and procedure manual for policies on when and how students can be disciplined. All students should receive a copy of their school's rules at the beginning of the school year, or when the student starts at a new school. The rules are often included in student or parent handbooks, or sent home separately. In addition to student and parent handbooks, districts also will have a district-wide policy and procedure regarding student discipline. You should be able to find your school district's discipline policies and procedures either on the district's website (often under a School Board tab, or a Policies and Procedures tab) or by asking for copies at the school or district office. Sometimes school rules change from one year to the next, so check to be sure you have a copy of the current year's handbook or school rules. If you do not have one, you can often find them on a school's website, or you can request one from the school office. In addition to the student handbook, sometimes teachers have additional rules or expectations for their class. Some teachers develop a set of classroom rules or expectations together with their students. To make sure you and your child understand what the rules and expectations are:

  • Read through the student handbook together. If there are parts of it that do not make sense, check in with the Principal for clarification;
  • Ask your child about the expectations in their classroom, and whether the teacher has posted a list of rules or expectations for their class; ask whether there are additional rules for classes like P.E., art, music or for recess; and
  • Ask your child's teachers about any particular classroom expectations.

Different Schools, Different Rules

Different schools sometimes have different rules, and students won't necessarily know what the rules are, or how to follow them, without your help. Take time to talk with your child and help them make good decisions about what they wear and what they bring to school.

Should the school give me a translation of the rules if I don't read English?

Yes. Schools are required to provide important information to parents in a language they understand. Ask the school or the district office for a translation of the school rules. Information about school rules and student discipline is important, so schools and districts need to make sure all students and parents can understand it.  Many schools and districts translate student handbooks before the school year starts. Ask if they have a copy in your language, or if they can create one. If you have questions about your rights to receive interpretation or translation services from your child's school, please do not hesitate to call our office. You can reach us at 1-866-297-2597. You can also find information online, at OSPI's Office of Equity and Civil Rights webpage, here: