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School & Student Handbooks 101

A school or student handbook for your school serves as an important first step in the enrollment journey. It is a reference guide for students, parents, and staff members. It provides stakeholders important information about the school’s policies, procedures, expectations, and resources. Here are components to consider including:

  1. Welcome and Introduction: Provide a warm introduction to the school, its mission, values, and educational philosophy. Welcoming students and families to the school community will set a positive tone for this guide.
  2. School Information: Include essential details about the school, such as contact information, staff directory, school hours, academic calendar, grading system, and school-wide events.
  3. Code of Conduct: Outline the behavioral expectations for students. Cover topics that may resonate with your school mission such as respect, integrity, responsibility, honesty, and include essentials such as appropriate use of technology. Include specific guidelines for classroom behavior, hallway conduct, dress code, and attendance policies.
  4. Academic Policies: Explain academic expectations, grading criteria, homework policies, assessment methods, and academic support services. You may wish to provide information about academic integrity, plagiarism, and consequences for academic dishonesty.
  5. Curriculum and Courses: Highlight the curriculum offered, including core subjects, electives, and any specialized programs. This may include any unique courses, extracurricular activities, or opportunities for enrichment.
  6. Student Support Services: Provide information about available support services, such as counseling, special education, English language learner programs, and tutoring resources. Explain how students can access these services and seek assistance when needed, and if they aren’t available this should also be outlined in the event admissions did not include this essential information for parents.
  7. Health and Safety: Outline policies and procedures related to student health and safety. Include information on medication administration, emergency procedures, first aid, wellness programs, and guidelines for maintaining a safe and healthy environment.
  8. Bullying and Harassment: Clearly define the school’s policy on bullying, harassment, and discrimination. Explain how incidents should be reported, the procedures for investigation, and the consequences for such behavior.
  9. Technology Usage and Policies: Provide guidelines for the use of technology and digital resources in the school. Address internet safety, responsible digital citizenship, acceptable use policies, and consequences for misuse.
  10. Discipline and Consequences: Outline the school’s disciplinary procedures and consequences for violations of school rules. Include information based on your schools’ approach to progressive discipline, interventions, and due process rights.
  11. Student Rights and Responsibilities: Communicate the rights and responsibilities of students within the school community. This may include freedom of expression, privacy rights, responsibilities to contribute to a positive school climate, and adherence to school policies.
  12. Extracurricular Activities and Athletics: Provide information about clubs, sports teams, and other extracurricular activities available to students.
  13. Parent Involvement: Explain how parents can actively engage in their child’s education and the various opportunities for parental involvement, such as volunteering, parent-teacher conferences, and parent events or organizations.
  14. Student Handbook Agreement: Include a section where students and parents acknowledge that they have read and understood the contents of the handbook. This section may require signatures and return to administration to indicate agreement and compliance with the school’s policies.
  15. Appendices: This can be an opportunity to include necessary forms, consent documents, or additional resources that support the implementation of the policies and procedures outlined in the handbook. This may include permission slips, emergency contact forms, or school-specific guidelines.

As a school leader, it’s important to regularly review and update the handbook to ensure its relevance and compliance with evolving laws and regulations. Involve stakeholders, such as staff, students, and parents, in the review process to ensure the handbook reflects the needs of the school community.

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