Student Code of Conduct and Discipline Procedures

PROCEDURE: Student Code of Conduct and Discipline Procedures

Date Approved/Updated: April 29, 2011

Approval Body: Chancellor’s Operational Team

Applicable Board Policy: D.4.6 Discipline and Penalties 

PURPOSE

The purpose of this procedure is to inform students of expected behavior, the right to due process for suspected violations of the student code of conduct, and the consequences for violations.

APPLICABILITY

This procedure applies to all students, those seeking academic, workforce, or continuing education credit.

 DEFINITIONS

In the code, unless the context requires a different meaning, the following definitions apply:

  • “Class Day” means a day on which classes are regularly scheduled or final examinations are given.
  • “Dean” means the College Dean of Student Services.
  • “Chief of Police” means the head supervisor over police and security personnel.
  • “Chancellor” means the top ranking official  of the Houston Community College District
  • “Student” means a person enrolled at the college, a person accepted for enrollment, or an alumnus of the college.
  • “Administrators” means all vice chancellors, associate vice chancellors, college presidents, deans, associate deans, directors and coordinators of the college district.
  • “Complaint” means a written summary of the essential facts constituting a violation of Board Rules, College Regulations or Administrative Rules.
  •  “Board” means the Board of Trustees of the Houston Community College District.
  • “Violation” means an offense which may result in disciplinary action, suspension or expulsion from the college.
  • “Classroom” includes physical and virtual educational environments.

Procedures

Basic Standard of Conduct

According to its policy on student conduct, Houston Community College views college-level students as adults who subscribe to a basic standard of conduct, which requires that they not violate any municipal, state or federal laws. Accordingly, HCC has a duty and corollary disciplinary power to protect its educational purpose of setting standards of conduct and regulations of the use of district property. Moreover, a student’s membership in the community of scholars is a privilege and carries with it obligations to participate in and contribute to the educational mission of the college and to avoid any behavior that is contrary to that mission. Therefore, no student may disrupt or otherwise interfere with any educational activity being performed by a member of the college district. In addition, no student may interfere with his/her fellow students’ right to pursue their academic goals to the fullest in an atmosphere appropriate to a community of scholars. An instructor may establish additional reasonable behavioral guidelines for his/her class. Any student failing to abide by appropriate standards of conduct during scheduled college activities may be required by the instructor or another college official to leave that day’s class or activity. The student has the right to return to the next class/activity, unless otherwise instructed. If a student refuses a request to voluntarily leave the classroom or activity, security may be summoned to remove the student so that the scheduled activity can resume without further disruption. In cases of serious problems, the faculty or staff member will document and report the incident to his/her supervisor. Further disciplinary action may be pursued to include referral to the Dean of Student Services. The above policy does not diminish the student’s freedom to take reasonable exception to the data or views offered in any course of study and to reserve judgment about matters of opinion. However, students are responsible for learning the content of any course of study in which they are enrolled. Free inquiry and free expression, both by the instructor and the student, are indispensable to the pursuit of truth and the development of students. Students must exercise their liberty with responsibility. A student is not entitled to greater immunities or privileges under this policy than those enjoyed by other citizens generally.

Use of Identification Card

Students are required to be in possession of their Student Identification card (ID) at all times. Student ID cards will be distributed at the beginning of each semester. All ID cards are the property of HCC and must be shown when requested by a representative of the college district. The card will be needed for such purposes as library and computer lab usage, admission to college activities, and voting in campus elections. ID cards are nontransferable and are to be held only by the students to whom they were issued.

If students lose their ID cards, they should contact the college Police Office to initiate the process to obtain a new one. A nominal fee will be charged for the replacement of lost ID cards. 

Searches

No person, except a law enforcement officer, will search a student’s personal possessions for the purpose of enforcing the Student Discipline Code of Conduct unless the individual’s prior permission has been obtained. Searches by law enforcement officers of such possessions will be conducted only as authorized by law. All HCC controlled property, such as lockers, desks, equipment, and rooms will be subject to search at any time, and no student should place an object in these HCC controlled areas with expectations of privacy.

Smoking

HCC prohibits smoking inside any of its buildings, owned or leased, including offices, classrooms, restrooms, hallways, elevators and all other interior locations. Smoking is permitted outside in approved areas established by each college, administrative, or support location. 

Drug-Free Schools

HCC is fully dedicated to a drug-free environment for all students and employees at all college locations. The unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession, sale, offer to sell, purchase and/or use of controlled substances or alcohol on campuses, at teaching sites, in vehicles, and on other property owned, leased or under the control of HCC and at all on-campus and off-campus, school-sponsored activities is prohibited.

Controlled substances are those defined in Schedules I through V of Section 202 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, s 481.001 et. seq. the Texas Controlled Substances Act. Controlled substances include, but are not limited to, such substances as marijuana, hashish, heroin, cocaine, LSD, PCP, methamphetamine, anabolic steroids, human-growth hormones and fentanyl. A student who uses a drug authorized by a licensed physician through a prescription specifically for that student’s use will not be considered to have violated this rule. As a condition of enrollment, all students are required to follow HCC policy and regulations concerning alcohol and other drugs. College counselors are available to students for consultation on alcohol and other drug issues. Counselors will assist students personally or act as a referral source when necessary. All student-counselor relationships will be on a confidential basis to the extent permitted by law. 

Drug and Alcohol Violations

Students who violate the Student Discipline and Conduct Policy regarding drugs and alcohol on campus will be subject to disciplinary action including but not limited to: referral to drug and alcohol counseling or rehabilitation programs, student assistance programs, suspension, expulsion and referral to appropriate law enforcement officials for prosecution.

Financial Obligations

Students are responsible for resolving their financial obligations to the college. The College Operations Officer or appropriate official may initiate disciplinary proceedings against students who allegedly:

  • Refuse to pay or fail to pay a debt owed to the college.
  • Give the college a check, draft, or order with intent to defraud the college. The Business Office sends written notice to a student when the drawee has rightfully refused payment. A student’s failure to pay the college the amount due on a check, draft or order on or before the fifth class day after the notice is given constitutes prima facie evidence that the student intended to defraud the college. 

Misuse of Electronic Devices in the Classroom

The use of electronic devices by students in the classroom is up to the discretion of the instructor. Any use of such devices for purposes other than student learning is strictly prohibited. If an instructor perceives such use as disruptive and/or inappropriate, the instructor has the right to terminate such use. If the behavior continues, the student may be subject to disciplinary action to include removal from the classroom or referral to the dean of student services.

Social Networking and Students in Health Care Programs

Students in health care programs must adhere to federal laws regarding HIPPA protected information and college policies regarding protection of privacy of the student’s patients. Students may not post any photos, videos, patient information, or any other data regarding patients or affiliations on Social Networking sites, including but not limited to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube.

Recording in the Classroom

Students must obtain consent from an instructor in order to audio or video record any portion of classroom time. If a student is receiving an accommodation for a disability, the student may be required to sign a statement assuring that the recording is only for personal use and cannot be distributed.

Scholastic Dishonesty

  • Students are responsible for conducting themselves with honor and integrity in fulfilling course requirements. Penalties and/ or disciplinary proceedings may be initiated by instructors, department chairs, and/or instructional deans against a student accused of scholastic dishonesty. “Scholastic Dishonesty” includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarism and collusion.

“Cheating” includes:

  • Copying from another student’s work
  • Using unauthorized materials including electronic devices for tests, assignments, and classroom activities
  • Collaborating with another student during a test without authority
  • Knowingly using, buying, selling, stealing, transporting or soliciting in whole or part the contents of an unadministered test
  • Bribing another person to obtain a test that is to be administered
  • Unauthorized talking during tests, assignments, and classroom activities

“Plagiarism” means using another person's words or ideas as one’s own without properly citing where and from whom you obtained the original work.

“Collusion” means the unauthorized collaboration with another person in preparing written work submitted for credit.

Other actions may constitute scholastic dishonesty. This is not an exhaustive list.

Violation of Academic Scholastic Dishonesty and Grievance

Possible punishments for academic dishonesty may include a grade of “0” or “F” on the particular assignment, failure in the course, and/or referral to the Dean of Student Services for further disciplinary action.

Students who wish to appeal a grade penalty should refer to the Grade Appeal Process.  

Disruptive Activity

Students shall not engage in disruptive activities while on the college campus or property. The Dean of Student Services will be responsible for enforcing regulations set by the college and the state concerning disruptive activities. State legislation governing such activities is found in Texas Education Code 37.123, and is as follows:

No person or groups of persons acting in concert may willfully engage in disruptive activities or disrupt a lawful assembly on the campus or property of any private or public school or institution of higher education or public vocational and technical school or institute. For the purposes of this Act, “Disruptive Activity” means:

  • Obstructing or restraining the passage of persons in an exit, entrance or hallway of any building without the authorization of the administration of the school
  • Seizing control of any building or portion of a building for the purpose of interfering with any administrative, educational, research or other authorized activity
  • Preventing or attempting to prevent by force or violence any lawful assembly authorized by the school administration
  • Disrupting by force or violence or the threat of force or violence a lawful assembly in progress
  • Obstructing or restraining the passage of any person at an exit or entrance to said campus or property or preventing or attempting to prevent by force or violence or by threats thereof the ingress or egress of any person to or from said property or campus without the authorization of the administration of the school

 

A lawful assembly is disrupted when any person in attendance is rendered incapable of participating in the assembly due to the use of force or violence or due to reasonable fear that force or violence is likely to occur. Nothing herein shall be construed to infringe upon any right of free speech or expression guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States or the State of Texas. 

Disruptive Classroom Behavior

While it is impossible to compile a complete list of disruptive behavior, any form of conduct by an individual or group of students that interferes with or inhibits the educational opportunities of another student is considered a disruption. Similarly, conduct that diminishes the effectiveness of an instructor or has the effect of negatively impacting the learning environment is also considered a disruption.

Threatening or Violent Behavior

Students are prohibited from making threats or engaging in violent activities. Examples of such behavior consist of, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Intentionally, recklessly, or negligently engaging in verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion, and/ or other conduct which threatens or endangers the mental or physical health and/or safety of any person or causes reasonable apprehension of such harm.
  • Stalking or willfully, maliciously and repeatedly following or harassing another person in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to feel frightened, intimidated, harassed, molested.
  • Engaging in a physical altercation or fighting
  • Causing physical injury to another person
  • Sexual assault

 Such behaviors will not be tolerated and may be grounds for expulsion. A student who poses a threat to him/herself or others will be subject to disciplinary action which may involve a mental health leave of absence.

Other Offenses

The college Dean of Student Services may initiate disciplinary proceedings against students who engage in other offenses to include, but not limited to, the following:

  • Conducting oneself in a manner that significantly interferes with college teaching, research, administration, disciplinary procedures or other authorized college activities (including its public service functions) on the college premises
  • Damaging, defacing or destroying college property or the property of a member of the college community or a campus visitor
  • Damaging, misusing or reprogramming college computers or equipment without proper authorization or installing viruses 
  • Knowingly provide false information in response to requests from the college
  • Hate messaging
  • Hazing, as defined by state law and college regulations
  • Forging, altering or misusing college documents, records, or ID cards
  • Violating college policies or regulations concerning registration of student organizations, use of college facilities, or the time, place, and manner of public expressions
  • Intentionally making false accusations against faculty, staff, or students
  • Failure to comply with lawful directions of college officials acting in the performance of their duties
  • Committing any act which is classified as an indictable offense under either state or federal law while on campus or while involved in college-sponsored activities
  • Failure to comply with the college’s attendance policy or other academic requirements of the college and its programs
  • Using, possessing and/or selling any illicit drug or narcotic, as those terms are defined by the Texas Controlled Substance Act, on college district property or at any college-related events or activities
  • Destroying state property or students’ personal property
  • Instigating a disturbance or riot which substantially disrupts the educational process
  • Theft, attempted theft or unauthorized use or possession of HCC property or property belonging to others
  • Any attempt at bodily harm toward self or others (this includes taking an overdose of pills or any other act where emergency medical attention is required)
  • Failure to pay or settle a debt owed with the college
  • Failure to comply with parking and traffic regulations
  • Possession of firearms, explosives(including fireworks), swords, daggers, straight razors or illegal knives on any campus or in automobiles on campus parking lots
  • Misuse of ID card
  • Gambling
  • Unauthorized use of college facilities
  • Other activities which disrupt the normal educational process 

Student Discipline Code

Students in the college district are protected as any citizen and have due process rights as stated in the Fourteenth Amendment. Students must, however, assume the responsibilities of citizenship. They are expected to obey both the penal and civil statutes of the State of Texas and the federal government and the Board Rules, College District Regulations and Administration Rules. This Student Discipline Code contains regulations for dealing with alleged student violations of college district standards of conduct in a manner consistent with the requirements of procedural due process.

The code applies to individual students and states the function of student, faculty and administrative staff members of the college district in disciplinary procedures. The college district has jurisdiction for disciplinary purposes over persons who were students at the time they allegedly violated a Board Rule, College Regulation or Administrative Policy. 

Initiation of Disciplinary Action

An instructor has the right to require a student to leave the classroom when it is perceived that the student is disruptive. If a student refuses a request to voluntarily leave the classroom, security may be summoned to remove the student so that the class can resume without further disruption. If a student is required to leave the classroom, the student must meet with the appropriate department chair, or in the case of a serious violation, the student will be required to meet with the dean of student services prior to returning to class. All efforts will be made to meet with the student prior to the next class meeting in order to handle the matter expediently.

 When the Dean of Student Services receives information that a student has allegedly violated a Board Rule, College Regulation or Administrative Rule, the dean will investigate the alleged violation. Upon completion of the investigation, the dean can take action as stated in the Penalties Section of this procedure.

 The Dean can take immediate interim disciplinary actions and suspend the right of a student to be present on any HCC campus, enroll or attend classes. Altering the status of a student for violation of a Board Rule, College Regulation or Administrative Rule when an emergency exists, requires immediate action to preserve the educational environment. 

Summoning the Student

A student can be summoned by the Dean to appear in connection with an alleged violation. It is the student’s responsibility to maintain a current address and phone number within the college’s student system account. In other instances, college officials may complete a Student Incident Report and tell a student that he/she cannot return to a class or activity until the student has contacted the Dean.

The student will be directed to appear at a specified time and place not more than seven working days after the time of the call or the completion of the form.

The Dean can place a student on disciplinary probation if the student fails, without good cause, to comply with a Letter of Summons, or the Dean can proceed against the student as described below in “Administrative Disposition of a Violation.” 

Administrative Disposition of a Violation

In administratively disposing of a violation, the Dean can impose any disciplinary action authorized in “Penalties,” subject to the student’s right to appeal.

At a conference with a student in connection with an alleged violation, the Dean will advise the student of his or her rights.

The Dean will prepare an accurate, written summary of each administrative disposition of a violation and forward a copy to the student and to the college president and other administrative personnel when deemed appropriate. (Discretion may call for modification of this listing.)

If the administrative disposition is accepted, the student will be given an opportunity to review and sign a statement certifying understanding of the nature of the charges, the right to a hearing or to waive the same, the penalty imposed, and the waiver of the right to appeal. In the event that a student refuses the administrative disposition, the student may appeal the decision and is entitled to a hearing.

Procedures Continued

Student Discipline Committee

When a student refuses administrative disposition of a violation, the student is entitled to a hearing before a Discipline Committee. This request must be made in writing on or before the seventh working day following the administrative disposition. Discipline Committees will be appointed by the college president and will include three faculty or staff members and two students. The Discipline Committee will elect a chairperson from the three faculty or staff members. The chairperson will preside over the hearing. All members of the committee are eligible to vote in the hearing and the majority vote will dictate the outcome of the proceedings.

The college Dean of Student Services will set the date, time and place for the hearing and notify the student defendant of the date, time, and place. The Dean will also request the appearance of witnesses and require the production of documentary and other evidence. 

The Dean will represent the college before the Discipline Committee and present evidence to support any allegations of violations of Board Rules, College Regulations, or Administrative Rules. 

Notice

The Dean will notify the student concerned by phone and email or letter of the date, time and place for the hearing. The dean will specify a hearing date not less than three, or more than 10, class days after the date of the contact. If the student is unmarried and under 18 years of age, a letter will be sent to the parents or guardians. The Dean can, for good cause, postpone the hearing as long as all interested parties are notified of the new hearing date, time and place.

The Discipline Committee can hold a hearing at any time as long as the student has actual notice of the date, time and place of the hearing.

The hearing notice will:

  • State the violation for which the student is accused.
  • Direct the student to appear before the committee on the date and at the time and place specified.
  • Advise the student of his or her rights. 

Student Rights

Charges stemming from a single transaction or occurrence against one or more students can be heard together; however, at the option of the committee or upon request by one of the students involved, a separate hearing may be held. At least seventy-two hours prior to the hearing date, the student concerned should furnish the committee chairperson with:

  • The name and address of each witness the student wants to appear and description of all documentary and other evidence possessed by the college which the student wants produced.
  • A summary of the proposed testimony of each witness.
  • A request for a separate hearing, if any, and the grounds for such request.

When the hearing is set, or for any good cause determined by the committee chairperson, the student concerned is entitled to furnish the information described above before the hearing begins. Failure to provide advanced notices can result in the committee’s refusal to allow witnesses to participate in the hearing or can be grounds for a delay in the proceeding. 

Hearing

The hearing is informal and the chairperson will provide reasonable opportunities for witnesses to be heard. The college will be represented by the Dean.  

The committee will proceed generally as follows during the hearing:

  • The Dean reads the violation for which the student is accused.
  • The Dean informs the student of his or her rights.
  • The Dean presents the college’s case.
  • The student presents his or her defense.
  • The Dean and the student present rebuttal evidence and arguments.

The committee meets in closed session to discuss the case and votes to decide whether or not there has been a violation of a Board Rule, College Regulation, or Administrative Rule. If the committee finds the student has violated a Board Rule, College Regulation or Administrative Rule, the committee will determine the appropriate action:

  • Uphold the decision and penalty imposed by the Dean
  • Impose a less severe penalty
  • Find the student free from any violations

The committee or the Dean acting on behalf of the committee will state in writing the outcome of the hearing. In the event that a student is found to have violated Board Rule, College Regulation or Administrative Rule each violation will be stated with the corresponding penalty. Each committee member concurring in the finding and penalty will sign the statement. The committee will include in the statement its reasons for the finding and penalty. 

Evidence

Legal rules of evidence do not apply to hearings before the Discipline Committee, and the committee can admit and give probative effect to evidence that possesses probative value and is commonly accepted by reasonable people in the conduct of their affairs. The committee will exclude irrelevant, immaterial and unduly repetitious evidence. The committee will recognize as privileged, to the extent permitted by law, communications between a student and a member of the professional staff of the counseling center where such communications were made in the course of performance of official duties and when the matters discussed were understood by the staff member and the student to be confidential. Committee members can freely question witnesses. The committee will presume a student is innocent of the alleged violation until it is convinced by substantial evidence (preponderance of the evidence) that the student violated a Board Rule, College Regulation, or Administrative Rule. All evidence will be offered to the committee during the hearing and made a part of the hearing record. Documentary evidence can be admitted in the form of copies or extracts or by incorporation by reference.  

Record

The hearing record will include:

  • A copy of the notice required
  • All documentary and other evidence offered or admitted as evidence
  • The committee’s decision

The disciplinary records and proceedings will be kept separate from the student’s academic record and will be treated as confidential to the extent provided by law. Final disposition of the record will reside with the Office of Student Records. 

Appeal

A student is entitled to appeal to the college president. The college president will automatically review every penalty of expulsion. A petition is informal, but will contain the information required. A student should file the petition with the president on or before the third class day after the Discipline Committee announces its decision. The decision of the president is final.

The college president in his/her review will take any action that the Student Discipline Committee is authorized to take. The college president will receive written briefs and hear oral argument during their review. 

Grounds for Appeal

The appeal must cite at least one criterion as the reason for the appeal.

  • Procedures were not properly followed as outlined in Student Rights and Responsibilities.
  • New or newly discovered information which substantially affects the outcome of the hearing has been discovered. Under this criterion, the case may be referred to the hearing body.
  • The imposed sanction was inconsistent or too severe for the gravity of the violation(s). 

Penalties

Subject to the student’s right of appeal, the Dean, Discipline Committee, or President may impose one or more of the following penalties for violation of a Board Rule, College Regulation or Administrative Rule:

  • Warning
  • Disciplinary probation
  • Suspension of rights or privileges
  • Suspension of eligibility for official co-curricular activities
  • Suspension from the College
  • Expulsion from the College
  • Restitution
  • Withholding of transcript or degree
  • Denial of degree

The penalties above shall be defined as follows:

  • Warning indicates that further violations of regulations will result in more severe disciplinary action. Warning can be imposed for any length of time up to one calendar year, and the student will be automatically removed from warning status when the imposed period expires.
  • Disciplinary probation indicates that further violations can result in suspension. In addition, the Dean may require the student to participate in activities such as counseling, tutoring, etc. A hold will be placed on the student's account preventing any transactions. The student must communicate with the Dean prior to initiating any transactions (i.e. registration, transcript requests, etc.).Disciplinary probation can be imposed for any length of time up to one calendar year and the student will be automatically removed from probation when the imposed period expires.
  • Suspension of rights and privileges is an elastic penalty which can impose limitations or restrictions to fit the particular case.
  • Suspension of eligibility for official co-curricular activities prohibits, during the period of suspension, the student on whom it is imposed from joining a registered student organization, taking part in a registered student organization’s activities or attending its meetings or functions, or participating in an official co-curricular activity. Such suspension can be imposed for any length of time up to one calendar year.
  • Suspension from the college prohibits, during the period of suspension, the student on whom it is imposed from being initiated into an honorary or service organization; from entering the college campus except in response to an official summons; and from registering, either for credit or for non-credit, for scholastic work at or through the college. Such suspension can be imposed for any length of time up to one calendar year.
  • Expulsion is permanent severance from the college.
  • Restitution is reimbursement for damage to or misappropriation of property. Reimbursement may take the form of appropriate service to repair or otherwise compensate for damages.
  • Withholding of transcript or degree is imposed upon a student who fails to pay a debt owed the college or who has a disciplinary case pending final disposition. The penalty terminates on payment of the debt or final disposition of the case.
  • Denial of degree can be imposed on a student found guilty of scholastic dishonesty and can be imposed for any length of time, up to and including permanent denial. 

Organizational Discipline

Organizations and officers of organizations must adhere to the same basic Standard of Conduct applied to individual students within the College District. Student groups and organizations may be charged with alleged violations of local, state and federal laws and/or College District policies. A student group or organization and its officers may be held collectively and/or individually responsible when alleged violations occur either during an event sponsored by the organization or by an individual representing or associated with that organization or group.

Causes for Disciplinary Action Against an Organization

Causes for disciplinary action against an organization include the following:

  • Financial irresponsibility
  • Criminal actions on the part of officers
  • Criminal actions at an organization-sponsored event
  • Use of illegal substances at an organizational event (with the knowledge of the officers)
  • Destructive actions at an organizational event
  • Failure to live up to contractual obligations of the organization
  • Discrimination or harassment knowingly sanctioned or allowed by an organization or at an organizational event
  • Disruption of College activities on or off campus
  • Violation of College policy by the officers operating on behalf of the organization
  • Abuse of the role of student organization in representing the College District
  • Hazing
  • Any violation covered in the Student Discipline Code 

Office of Responsibility

Student Services