"Good Conduct" Rule: A Sample Handbook Provision

Revision V, March 2017




Iowa law requires school boards to adopt a policy regarding participation in extracurricular activities. The following is the language promulgated by the Iowa Association of School Boards as a sample policy statement:


Participation in school activities is a privilege. School activities provide the benefits of promoting additional interests and abilities in the students during their school years and for a lifetime.

Students who participate in extracurricular activities serve as ambassadors of the school district throughout the calendar year, whether away from school or at school.

Students who wish to have the privilege of participating in extracurricular activities must conduct themselves in accordance with board policy and must refrain from activities which are illegal, immoral, or unhealthy.

Students who fail to abide by this policy and the administrative regulations supporting it may be subject to disciplinary measures. The principal shall keep records of violations of the good conduct rule.

It shall be the responsibility of the superintendent to adopt rules and regulations for school activities. Students wanting to participate in school activities must meet the requirements set out by the school district for participation in the activity.

The following pages include sample rules and a set of procedures to implement the above policy language. SAI offers the sample handbook provision for school districts to consider.

As always, administrators and school boards are encouraged to review proposed policies and regulations with counsel for the school or school district. Ultimately, it is the school board that resolves questions of intent or otherwise interprets its own policy. That is only feasible when the board, in cooperation with administration, has reviewed and thoroughly discussed the issues inherent in a sample policy or rules.

Perhaps no other policy or rule a board adopts is so predictably likely to result in challenges or appeals than is the board's Good Conduct Policy and the administration's rules and procedures to implement it. There are a number of places where this sample chooses a single option among many, and the sample chosen may not reflect the attitude in your community.

It is wise to take note that the board's policy on good conduct for extracurricular activities falls within the list of student responsibility and discipline policies that are to be developed with input from "parents, students, instructional and noninstructional professional staff, and community members" where practicable. 281 Iowa Admin. Code 12.3(6). Consideration by that same or a similar group of individuals for proposed rules and procedures to implement those policies would no doubt be welcome as well and is recommended.

Citations of Authority:

Court cases:

Braesch v. DePasquala, 265 N.W.2d 842 (Neb. 1978).

Brands v. Sheldon Comm. Sch. Dist. 671 F.Supp. 627 (N.D. Ia. 1987).

Bunger v. Iowa High School Athletic Assn., 197 N.W.2d 555 (Ia. 1972).

Bush v. Dassel-Cokato Bd. of Educ., 745 F.Supp. 562 (D. Minn. 1990).

Clements v. Board of Educ., 478 N.E.2d 1209 (Ill. App. 1985).

Commonwealth v. Pennsylvania Interscholastic Ath. Assn., 334 A.2d 839 (Pa. 1975).

Katchak v. Glasgow Indep. Sch. Supt. , 690 F.Supp. 580 (W.D. Ky. 1988).

Marino v. Waters, 220 So.2d 802 (La. App. 1969).

Sanders v. Louisiana High Sch. Athl. Assn., 242 So.2d 19 (La. App. 1970).

Iowa State Board of Education cases:

In re Jesse Bachman, 13 D.o.E. App. Dec. 363 (1996).

In re Bryan Campbell and Craig McClure, 9 D.o.E. App. Dec. 69 (1991).

In re Jason Clark, 1 D.P.I. App. Dec. 167 (1978).

In re Joseph Fuhrmeister, 5 D.o.E. App. Dec. 335 (1988).

In re Chris Gruhn (et al.), 9 D.o.E. App. Dec. 265 (1992).

In re Troy Hudson, 7 D.o.E. App. Dec. 144 (1989).

In re Heather Kramme, 13 D.o.E. App. Dec. 89 (1994).

In re Brett Lureman, 18 D.o.E. App. Dec. 265 (2000).

In re Ryan Oelmann, 18 D.o.E. App. Dec. 288 (2000).

In re Sharon Ortner, 16 D.o.E. App. Dec. 269 (1999). 


The Board of Directors of the ___________________ (Community School District)(School)

offers a variety of voluntary activities designed to enhance the classroom education of its students. Students who participate in extracurricular activities serve as ambassadors of the school throughout the calendar year, whether away from or at school. Students who wish to exercise the privilege of participating in extracurricular activities must conduct themselves in accordance with board policy and must refrain from activities that are illegal, immoral, unhealthy, or highly inappropriate. Participation in these activities is a privilege, conditioned upon meeting the eligibility criteria established by the board, administration, and individual activity coaches and sponsors. The (principal)(activities director) shall keep records of violations of the Good Conduct Rule.

The following activities are covered by the board's policy and these rules:

Athletics, instrumental and vocal music performances , drama productions, speech contests, FFA, FHA, National Honor Society, all co-curricular clubs (e.g., Art Club, French Club), all honorary and elected offices (e.g., Homecoming King/Queen/court, class officer, student government officer or representative), state contests and performances for cheerleading and drill team, mock trial, Academic Decathlon, or any other activity where the student represents the school outside the classroom .

Academic Eligibility

To be eligible for an activity, students participating must 

  • be enrolled or dual-enrolled in school;
  • have earned passing grades in at least four full-time classes the previous semester;
  • be earning passing grades in at least four full-time classes in the current semester;
  • for students in athletics, music, or speech activities, be under 20 years of age;
  • for students in athletics, music, or speech activities, be enrolled in high school for eight semesters or less;
  • for students in athletics, have not been a member of a college squad nor trained with a college squad, nor participated in a college contest nor engaged in that sport professionally;
  • have met all transfer requirements, if the student is a transfer student, or be eligible under state law and regulations if the student is an open enrollment student. 

Special education students or students covered by a Section 504 plan shall not be denied eligibility on the basis of scholarship if the student is making adequate progress, as determined by the student's team, towards the goals and objectives on the student's IEP or 504 plan.

Good Conduct Rule

To retain eligibility for participation in ______________ High School extracurricular activities, students must conduct themselves as good citizens both in and out of school at all times. Students who represent the school in an activity are expected to serve as good role models to other students and to the members of the community.

Any student who, after a hearing at which the student shall be confronted with the allegation, the basis of the allegation, and given an opportunity to tell the student's side, is found to have violated the school's Good Conduct Rule will be deemed ineligible for a period of time, as described below. A student may lose eligibility under the Good Conduct Rule for any of the following behaviors: 

  • possession, use, or purchase of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, vaporizers or other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, regardless of the student's age;
  • possession, use, or purchase of alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine (having the odor of alcohol on one's breath is evidence of "use");
  • being in attendance at a function or party where the student knows or has reason to know that alcohol or other drugs are being consumed illegally by minors and failing to leave despite having a reasonable opportunity to do so;
  • possession, use, purchase, or attempted sale/purchase of illegal drugs, or the unauthorized possession, use, purchase, or attempted sale/purchase of otherwise lawful drugs;
  • engaging in any act that would be grounds for arrest or citation in the criminal or juvenile court system (excluding minor offenses such as traffic or hunting/fishing, violations), regardless of whether the student was cited, arrested, convicted, or adjudicated for the act(s);
  • exceedingly inappropriate or offensive conduct such as assaulting staff or students, gross insubordination (talking back or refusing to cooperate with authorities), hazing or harassment of others. Such harassment does not have to rise to the level of violating the school’s anti-bullying/harassment policy, but rather may include inappropriate and/or disparaging comments to or about others, whether made verbally, in writing, or by electronic means (e.g., text messages, electronic mail, or posting on social networking sites). Examples of such harassment includes, but is not limited to: threats; inappropriate comments about the traits of an individual or group; creating parodies to make fun of others; posting or otherwise sharing potentially embarrassing photographs, drawings, video, or depictions of others without permission. NOTE: This could include group conduct! This rule is not intended to prevent a student from expressing his/her religious or political beliefs.

If a student transfers in from another Iowa school or school district and the student had not yet completed a period of ineligibility for a violation of a Good Conduct Rule in the previous school, the student shall be ineligible if the administration determines that there is general knowledge in our school district of the fact of the student's misconduct or violation in the previous district.

Penalties :

Any student who, after a hearing before the administration, is found to have violated the Good Conduct Rule, during the school year or summer, is subject to a loss of eligibility as follows:

First Offense Within the Student's High School Career- Up to six (6) weeks of ineligibility. (For "mere presence" violations, see item 5 under "Reduction in Penalty.")

Second Offense Within the Student's High School Career - Up to twelve (12) weeks of ineligibility. (For "mere presence" violations, see item 5, "Reduction in Penalty.")

Third or More Offense Within the Student's High School Career - Up to twelve (12) calendar months of ineligibility. (For "mere presence" violations, see item 5 under "Reduction in Penalty" section below.)

1. The period of ineligibility attaches immediately upon a finding of a violation if the student is eligible for and currently engaged in an extracurricular activity and, if not, or if not completed during the current activity, is begun or carried over to the time the student seeks to go out for the next activity or contest.

2. However, if the period of time between a violation and an activity is twelve calendar months or more, the student shall not serve an ineligibility period for the violation.

3. An ineligible student shall attend all practices or rehearsals but may not "suit up" nor perform/participate.

4. If a student drops out of an activity prior to completion of the ineligibility period, the full penalty or the remainder of the penalty, at the administration's discretion, will attach when the student next seeks to go out for an activity, subject to the 12-month limitation above.

5. If a student violates the Good Conduct Rule while ineligible due to an earlier violation, the penalty for the subsequent offense will attach at the completion of the earlier penalty.

Reduction in Penalty:

1. Evaluation and Treatment: A student who has a second violation of the alcohol or drug provision of the Good Conduct Rule may elect to seek an evaluation and, if recommended, treatment from a recognized substance abuse facility at the student's or student's family's expense. If the student seeks the evaluation and agrees to waive confidentiality to allow the evaluating facility to report back to the superintendent or designee regarding recommendations for treatment or follow-up care, the student's penalty for the second violation may be reduced by three (3) weeks [or "by x%"]. This reduction is not available for first or third violations.

2. Admission Prior to Determination : If a student comes forward to a coach, administrator, or activity sponsor to admit (self-report) a violation of the Good Conduct Rule prior to a finding of guilt by the administration, the student's penalty may be reduced by two (2) weeks [or "one third"] for a first violation, three (3) weeks [or "one-fourth"] for a second violation, or three (3) months ["one-fourth"] for a third violation within the student's high school career.

3. Items 1. and 2. of this section may not be combined.

4. A student who has been found to have violated one or both of the provisions described above prohibiting conduct that would be grounds for arrest or citation, or conduct that is grossly inappropriate or offensive, may seek to reduce the penalty by entering into a Behavior Agreement. The Agreement shall be in writing and shall include, but not be limited to, an oral apology for the student's behavior to affected parties, restitution where appropriate, and a presentation before students in the elementary and middle schools regarding the inappropriateness of the student's behavior. The degree of reduction of the penalty in such situations shall rest with the administrator, but in no event shall the reduction exceed one-third of the penalty.

5. A student who violates the "mere presence" provision of this policy shall serve no more than one-half of the established penalty for the first, second, or third/subsequent violation.

Violations Occurring During Ineligibility:

If a student is ineligible at the time of a violation of the Good Conduct Rule, the penalty for the violation will not begin until the student regains eligibility. Example: A student academically ineligible for a quarter [or "semester"] is found to have been in possession of tobacco, a Good Conduct Rule violation. When the student is again academically eligible, the penalty attaches. Example: A student violates the Good Conduct Rule and is ruled ineligible for three weeks. While ineligible, the student again violates the Rule. The second penalty attaches when the first penalty is completed.

Academic Consequences:

There will be no academic consequences for the violation (e.g., detention, suspension, expulsion from school, or grade reduction/withholding) unless the violation of the Good Conduct Rule occurred (a) on school grounds, (b) at a school event regardless of location, or (c) the violation has a direct and immediate negative impact on the efficient operation of the school despite occurring off school grounds/time.

Letters and Awards:

Students who are ineligible at the conclusion of an activity shall not receive a letter or award for that activity.


Any student who is found by the administration to have violated the Good Conduct Rule may obtain review of this determination to the superintendent by contacting the superintendent within 3 days of being advised of the violation. The penalty will be in effect until reversed.

If the student is still dissatisfied, he or she may seek further review by the school board by filing a written appeal with the board secretary at least 24 hours prior to the next board meeting. A special meeting of the board will not be called. The review by the board will be in closed session unless the student's parent (or the student, if the student is 18) requests an open session. The grounds for review by the school board are limited to the following: the student did not violate the Good Conduct Rule; the student was given inadequate due process in the investigation and determination; or the penalty is in violation of the Handbook Rule or Board Policy. The penalty will remain in effect pending the outcome of the meeting with the board.

If the school board reverses the decision of the administration , the student shall be immediately eligible and shall have any record of the ineligibility period and violation deleted from the student's record.


SAI has proposed, in this sample Good Conduct Rule, that a student's "mere presence" at a function or party where alcohol or other drugs are being consumed illegally by minors is also a violation. As we noted in footnote 4, this provision has not yet been tested in Iowa courts and, in fact, it appears to fly in the face of the Iowa Supreme Court's admonition in the Bunger case from 1972. There the Court wrote, "School authorities may make reasonable beer rules, but we thing this rule is too extreme. Some closer relationship between the student and the beer is required than mere knowledge that the beer is there. The rule as written would even prohibit a student from accepting a ride home in a car by an adult neighbor who had a visible package of beer among his purchases. We realize that the rule has been made broad in an effort to avoid problems of proving a connection between the student and the beer, but rules cannot be so extended as to sweep in the innocent in order to achieve invariable conviction of the guilty." Bunger v. Iowa High School Ath. Assn., 197 N.W.2d 555 @ 565 (Ia. 1972).

SAI, and apparently now the State Board of Education, believe the language above from Bunger is legally "dated." That is, it reflects the times and the judicial attitude towards student rights shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Tinker. Note that in Bunger the Iowa Supreme Court only recognized one "reason" for the rule challenged in Bunger, and that was "to avoid problems of proving a connection between the student and the beer." We believe there are additional, valid, educational reasons for such a rule. For example (and the school might be wise to include these reasons in its rationale for adopting a "mere presence" rule): 

  • Educators know a great deal more about the dangers of adolescent experimentation or "dabbling" with alcohol and drugs than we did 25 years ago. We know more about addiction and we know more about the unhealthy impact on growing bodies that alcohol and drugs have, even in moderate amounts.
  • This country now has a serious problem with drug and alcohol use by teenagers and even younger children.
  • Federal and state laws now require schools to educate students about drug and alcohol use and abuse. Many laws have been passed, grant money made available, etc., to impress upon students the message against any type of chemical involvement.
  • The message of approval that is "sent" when a student attends a party where drugs and alcohol are being used illegally by minors is one of approval, even if the student doesn't participate him- or herself. (This is even true for the so-called responsible activity of declaring a "designated driver" who will abstain from use while his/her peers engage in consumption of the chemicals.) 

While adopting a "mere presence" rule appears to contradict the Iowa Supreme Court's message from 1972, we believe given the judicial climate (courts are far more consistently upholding school rules today than they were 25 years ago, and we now have additional judicial authority for the proposition that students have fewer "rights" when facing a loss of eligibility for extra-curricular activities than for loss of attendance at school) such a rule would be far more legally defensible today. The fact that the State Board of Education supported such a rule in the Lureman case should also help in the event a school finds itself in court defending its "mere presence" rule. It's well worth noting that there are two factors the State Board expects to see applied or in a school district's "mere presence" rule: (1) there must be some evidence that the student knew the drugs/alcohol were present and being used illegally, and (2) the student must have failed to leave (after discovery of the drugs/alcohol/illegal activity ) within a reasonable time, assuming the student had an opportunity to leave.

Note also that the IHSAA's interpretation of the beer rule at the time of Bunger was that "A boy is also subject to the same loss of eligibility if he is in a vehicle stopped by a law officer and alcoholic beverages and/or dangerous drugs are found in the vehicle." SAI's suggested rule would be more explicit (so that a student who accepted a ride from a neighbor who had groceries, including beer, in the car would not be in violation). The student would have to be participating (drinking or using drugs), or in a vehicle or in attendance at a social function or party where alcohol or other drugs are being consumed illegally by minors, know about it, and refuse or fail to leave despite having an opportunity to do so. This would likely eliminate the circumstances where a minor drinks wine at the family holiday dinner or takes a drink of champagne at a relative's wedding, assuming the student's parent/guardian was also in attendance, because parents can legally provide alcohol to their minor children. It would only cover circumstances that should be covered.

Remember: Just because a parent may condone a child's drinking, smoking, or other illegal activity [at the time or later] doesn't mean the school cannot proceed to apply the Good Conduct Rule. A State Board decision upheld a district's decision to impose a Good Conduct Rule penalty in a situation where the student was drinking beer earlier in the evening with his mother and then joined friends driving around and drinking, allegedly with his mother's knowledge and consent. In re Jesse Bachman, 13 D.o.E. App. Dec. 363 (1996). The school district would be well advised to review the circumstances of the "parental consent" so as to separate the "glass of wine at a family holiday dinner" and "sip of champagne at the wedding" situations from the scenario where a parent is supplying the child with beer, alcohol, or drugs outside the context of any brief celebratory moment.

There is no question that students and their parents should be well informed if the school adopts the "mere presence" part of a Good Conduct Rule. They need to be told that if a student finds him- or herself in a situation where alcohol or other drugs are being consumed illegally by minors, the student's options are

1. Leave immediately. An intention to leave is not a defense. Nor is being the "designated driver."

2. Apply "reverse" peer pressure to convince the persons responsible for bringing the

contraband substances to leave the party and take the drugs/alcohol with them.

3. Otherwise get rid of the offending substances. (Flush or pour, but do not consume!)

4. Stay and risk loss of eligibility for extracurricular activities.

The State Board of Education has applied the "mere presence" concept to a vandalism-by-car situation, such that two student-passengers in a car being driven by a third student over school grounds destroying property were ruled ineligible, and their ineligibility was upheld. In Re Anderson & Grom, 14 D.o.E. App. Dec. 294 (1997).

One additional piece of advice: It is wise to anticipate and discuss "hypothetical" situations among your committee or otherwise in a public dialogue prior to adoption of any rule, including the "mere presence" rule. For example, if a student without transportation calls home or calls someone else for a ride and waits outside the party, that should probably be interpreted as "leaving." But what about the student who called for a ride and stayed inside? Does it make a difference if it's 10 degrees outside and the ride won't be there for fifteen minutes? What if a "legitimate" party is going on in the basement or family room, but one or two students are in an upstairs bedroom smoking marijuana, and the majority of students at the party don't know that is going on but some do? Anticipate, discuss and record the committee's or board's conclusions. Share those interpretations with the coaches and activity sponsors and insist that they share them with student participants. We may not be able to think up all the possible fact patterns that could occur, but we can cut down on ad hoc decision making in a lot of cases if we think ahead.

Administrators are always encouraged to use common sense in their investigations, guilt determinations, and imposition of penalties, but sometimes anticipating problematic situations helps the administrator resolve the case in a way that everyone agreed to beforehand.