Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Dec 29, 2019

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A school that requires a student to stay after hours as part of regular school punishments is acting within legal boundaries, but the school must also observe certain limitations on this type of situation.

What are the rules governing school punishments and after school hours?

Many schools enforce detention, or having students stay after school for a specified period of time, as a method of punishment. While schools are typically within their rights to do this, there are reasonable expectations placed on the practice. For example, the student must be given a certain amount of notice so that her parents are not worried about where she is, and so that she can make proper and safe travel arrangements. The detention must also be reasonable in length, and detentions must be issued on a legitimate basis. A detention penalty must be enforced in good faith, and not with malicious, wanton, or willful motives by the teacher. 

If a school merely keeps students after hours in order to, for example, complete class material, the school also needs to do so with advance notice, and only for reasonable amounts of time. If a student is unable to stay after hours in any situation such as the ones above, the school technically cannot enforce the punishment, but must be willing to come up with alternative arrangements.

Many school districts have their own rules regarding this type of situation. Check your school’s handbook for more specific policies. If you encounter a conflict, make sure to have a parent or guardian speak with the school in order to work out an acceptable compromise. If you believe your child was kept after school in bad faith, for an unreasonable duration of time, or as a victim of discrimination, it is in your best interests to consult with a lawyer to find out what options you may have for recourse.