Distributed by:Minnesota School Boards Association
1900 West Jefferson Avenue
St. Peter, MN  56082-3015(507) 934-2450
(800) 324-4459
FAX:  (507) 931-1515

Minnesota Association of School Administrators
1884 Como Avenue
St. Paul, MN  55108(651) 645-6272
FAX:  (651) 645-7518

This Policy Reference Manual is provided as a service of the Minnesota School Boards Association and the Minnesota Association of School Administrators to assist school boards and administrators in the development of proper policies and procedures in managing their school districts.  This reference manual was developed as a joint effort among the MSBA and MASA staffs and their consultants, and the law firm of Knutson, Flynn & Deans, P.A.

This Policy Reference Manual is not intended to answer all questions about school board policy issues.  Staff persons from MSBA and MASA are available to assist school board members and school administrators in complying with and understanding issues related to specific policies.

This Policy Reference Manual is part of an on-going service which will be provided to subscribers by MSBA/MASA.  This manual is not designed to address all policy matters but should be recognized as addressing priority issues.  MSBA/MASA plans to annually update existing policies and supplement the Manual with additional policies as necessary.  Additional information about this policy service will be provided periodically by MSBA/MASA staff.

This Policy Reference Manual is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information regarding the subject matter covered.  It is furnished with the understanding that neither MSBA nor MASA is engaged in rendering legal advice to a particular school district.  If specific legal advice or other expert assistance is desired by a particular school district, a competent attorney or professional person should be consulted.

To the Policy Maker:

A policy manual is recognized as the primary and most efficient way for the school board to provide administrators, employees, students, parents, taxpayers and members of the entire school district community notice of the school boards beliefs and goals and methods of achieving those beliefs and goals.  School board policy allows the school board to exert its influence, exercise its authority and create the educational program needed and desired.

In developing a school board policy manual, it is important to keep in mind that the MSBA/MASA Policy Reference Manual is only a beginning.  It contains only sample and suggested model policies.  Except for certain designated policies, it is designed to be a starting point for each school board to add, delete and modify sample language to reflect each school boards individual philosophy and beliefs.  The MSBA/MASA Policy Reference Manual is not designed nor recommended for adoption as is.  School board policy is important in setting the tone for the school district.  MSBA/MASA recommend that a careful public process be utilized by the elected school board to develop school board policies, recognizing that the school district is comprised of a broad community of  students, parents, employees, taxpayers and community members who have an important interest in those polices.  The MSBA/MASA Policy Reference Manual is provided on a computer disk to facilitate the school boards policy development process.  Once the policy development is complete, the policy manual becomes the product of the school board.  MSBA/MASA encourage each school district  to involve its legal counsel in the development of its school board policies.

Goals of School Board Policy

School board policy is written to accomplish the following goals:

To provide guidance, continuity and consistency in the decision-making process by the school board and administration;

To state "why" a school board wants a certain action to occur and state "what" the school board wants to accomplish through that action;

To give enough guidance to the administration to implement school board policy, yet enough flexibility to allow the administration to carry out the policy on a daily basis;

To provide boundaries within which the educational program can operate;

To achieve efficiency by not repeatedly discussing the same issues;

To reflect formally the school board's authority to make rules and regulations, which have the force and effect of law; and

To provide a framework for the operation of the school district consistent with state and federal law.

School board policy manuals inform the school community of the school board's policies on a broad variety of issues ranging from internal school board operations to student conduct to investments and use of school district facilities and equipment.  The level of specificity and detail in school board policy is dependent upon the nature and complexity of the subject matter and the philosophy of the school board.  Some school boards prefer a greater level of detail in school board policy while other school boards prefer a lesser degree of detail.

Administrative directives and guidelines implement school board policy and should have their basis in school board policy.  Throughout this Policy Reference Manual, there are school board policies which give the superintendent specific authority to develop administrative directives and guidelines to effectuate the implementation of school board policies, which directives and guidelines shall not be inconsistent with those school board policies.  It is recommended, at a minimum, that school boards review administrative directives and guidelines on major policy issues prior to their implementation and conduct an annual review of any such directives and guidelines that have been adopted.  A review is important because it lets the school board know how school board policy will be implemented and ensures consistency of interpretation between the school board and the administration.  Periodically, school boards and administrators should, in such review, determine whether the nature and scope of such administrative directives and guidelines are such that they should be formally approved by the school board and incorporated in school board policy.

Many school districts have employee and student handbooks.  These types of handbooks serve notice on employees, students and parents of their rights and responsibilities, which are often the subject of litigation.  Language in a handbook which is inconsistent with school board policy will cause difficulties in the event of litigation.  A court or arbitrator may determine that the language in the handbook overrides school board policy because the handbook was provided directly to employees and/or students and parents.  School boards and administrators must be aware of the contents of these handbooks to ensure consistency between the handbooks and school board policy.  Therefore, it is recommended that such handbooks be presented to and adopted by the school board to avoid pitfalls related to illegal, disparate or inconsistent procedures in the school district.

The impetus for school board policy development or change may come from a variety of sources.  It may be triggered because of a change in the law, a change in school district practice, or a change in school board philosophy.  Policy development or change may be initiated by school board members, employees, students or community members.  A number of school board policies are mandatory and are necessary to meet the requirements of state or federal law.  State and federal agencies look for the mandatory school board policies during accreditation visits, financial audits, investigations and as contingencies prior to the release of funds. 
Such policies include:
102 Equal Educational Opportunity
401 Equal Employment Opportunity
402 Disability Nondiscrimination Policy
406 Public and Private Personnel Data (If the district is receiving federal class-size reduction funds)
407 Employee Right to Know - Exposure to Hazardous Substances
410 Family and Medical Leave Policy
413 Harassment and Violence
417 Chemical Use and Abuse
418 Drug Free Workplace/Drug Free School
419 Tobacco-Free Environment
420 Students and Employees with Aids and Other Communicable Diseases and Infectious Conditions
501 School Weapons Policy
502 Search of Student Lockers, Desks, Personal Possessions and Student's Person
506 Student Discipline
515 Protection and Privacy of Pupil Records
516 Student Medication
521 Student Disability Nondiscrimination
522 Student Sex Nondiscrimination
524 Internet Acceptable Use Policy
526 Hazing Prohibition
531 The Pledge of Allegiance
709 Student Transportation Safety Policy
806 Crisis Management Policy

In addition to mandatory school board policies, there are also a number of policies that need to be consistent with state or federal laws which specify how a policy is to be stated or implemented.   School district legal counsel should be consulted prior to deviation from the recommended language in this Policy Reference Manual to ensure that any variances are not inconsistent with legal requirements.

In drafting school board policy, it is important to remember that a good policy:
1. meets the educational goals of the school district;
2. is written within the scope of the school board's authority;
3. is adopted through proper school board procedure;
4. is not inconsistent with state and federal law;
5. is communicated to the persons it will affect.

In the first point, it is important for the school board to incorporate its educational goals into school board policy.  The school board's educational goals have a greater chance of being achieved if a school board policy is written to implement them.

The second point is a reflection of the limitation upon a school boards authority.  School boards can only exercise express or implied powers granted to them by law.

As the third point states, school boards should develop an appropriate procedure for adopting and implementing school board policy.  A school board, therefore, should have a specific policy addressing its policy development process including study, review, adoption and revision procedures.  School boards generally present a new policy at two or three public school board meetings prior to final adoption of the policy.   (See Model Policy 208)   School boards should implement a procedure for on-going policy review.

School boards should adopt school board policy consistent with state and federal law as the fourth point states.  As discussed above, in some areas the law is very specific about what a school board policy can or cannot do or say.  In other areas, the school board has wider discretion in developing the language of a policy.  It is important to remember that policy is not developed in a vacuum, and therefore the development process should involve the greater school community.  In many cases, participation by legal counsel is desirable to ensure that the product is consistent with federal and state law.

The fifth point is communicating the policy to the persons that it will affect.  The school board cannot expect employees, students, parents or others to comply with and support a school board policy if they do not know the policy exists.

Tips for Writing School Board Policy

In conjunction with the five points outlined above, there are a number of more specific tips that are recommended when developing policies utilizing the model policies in this Policy Reference Manual.  These include:
When filling in a blank requiring a name or a position title, use the position title.  This will keep the policy current even when there is a turnover in employees.
Avoid duplication and inconsistencies in school board policies.
State the adoption, revision and review dates on the top of the first page of each policy.  These dates will provide guidance, assistance and historical context.
When updating policies, remember to update the legal and cross references as well.

Using the Policy Reference Manual

In addition to sample language, editorial notes are included explaining some items.  The editorial notes are in italics and the text of the sample policy is in regular print.

Throughout the model policies there are a number of blanks that need to be completed by the school board.  There also may be items addressed in the model policies that do not reflect a particular school board's philosophy, beliefs or practices.  If so, that school board needs to modify those items to reflect its particular approach.  Remember that in certain areas the school board does not have the discretion to change the model policy since the language may be mandatory or  required by law.


When utilizing the model policies some further tips suggested are as follows:
1. COPY THE COMPUTER DISK and store the second copy in a safe place.

2. Observe the explanation in the notes, when provided, in considering the model policy.

3. A number of model policies have been incorporated by reference to eliminate duplication concerning policies addressing licensed employees, nonlicensed employees and students.  Model policies that affect all groups equally are sometimes combined into a single model policy.

4. In this policy reference manual, the index may be different than the one currently used by your school district.  The MSBA/MASA Policy Reference Manual uses a numerical numbering system.

5. The name of the school district needs to replace the "MSBA/MASA Model" at the top of the first page of each policy.

A Guide to Legal References Used
Minnesota Statutes - law adopted by the Minnesota Legislature
Minnesota Rules - rules adopted by state agencies or courts
Op. Att'y Gen. - Minnesota Attorney General opinions
N.W.2d and N.W. - court decisions issued by either the Minnesota Supreme Court,  Minnesota Court of Appeals or other state court decisions from our region.
U.S.C. - United States Code adopted by Congress
C.F.R. - Code of Federal Regulations, rules adopted by federal agencies
U.S. - Supreme Court decisions
Fed.2d and Fed.3d - U.S. Court of Appeals decisions
Fed. Supp - U.S. District Court decisions


It is hoped by the staffs of MSBA and MASA that this Policy Reference Manual proves to be useful to Minnesota school districts as it becomes fully developed over the next several years.  We welcome your comments, suggestions and questions.

Revised: 2/01