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Can schools enforce protection orders?

Blog post

While schools have a duty to comply with civil and criminal orders of protection, some school administrators may wonder on a practical level how school staff can enforce protection orders.

Law enforcement has the legal responsibility to enforce restraining orders, including on school campuses.

Schools have the legal responsibility to keep students safe while they are at school. It’s crucial for schools to enforce court-ordered protective orders for the safety of all students and staff who could be harmed.

AB 1880 doesn’t dictate how schools should enforce protective orders on campus. It simply requires that they make this determine on their own. For example, upon learning that a student has a protective order, who will be notified? What steps will be taken to ensure that the order is enforced? 
When a school staff is notified that a student holds a protection order, a designated school employee can work with the protected student to develop a plan for enforcement of the protection order on the school campus. There are many options for enforcing protective orders while ensuring the rights of all students to access education. 

The following passage is excerpted from Break the Cycle’s Safe Schools Model Policy: A Comprehensive Approach to Addressing Dating Violence and Sexual Violence in District of Columbia Schools, to illustrate the practical ways in which schools can enforce protective orders. Commentary about the policy from the model policy document is also offered.  

Excerpt from the Policy:

Enforcement of court-issued protection orders is critical to ensuring safety for students experiencing dating violence and sexual violence. Schools have a duty to take any and all steps necessary to enforce a protection order held by a student.

Upon receiving notice that a student holds a protection order, the [designated school employee] shall immediately schedule a meeting with the protected student to create a plan for enforcement of the protection order on the school campus. The [designated school employee] shall work with the protected student to create an enforcement plan regardless of whether the restrained individual is a student. In addition, the [designated school employee] shall provide the protected student with information about reporting violations of the protection order, assist him/her with reporting any violations, and provide him/her with a list of campus and community resources.

If the restrained individual is a student, the school shall make any necessary changes to the restrained student’s school enrollment, participation, or environment in order to comply with the protection order and ensure the protected student’s safety. In addition, the [designated school employee] shall work with the protected student and the school to make any changes to the protected student’s school enrollment, participation, or environment to which he/she consents and which are necessary to ensure his/her safety.

Changes to the restrained student’s school enrollment, participation, or environment that are made pursuant to a valid protection order do not require a written complaint or grievance by the student. The restrained student may file a grievance using the procedures set forth in this policy to challenge any changes made to his/her school enrollment, participation, or environment to enforce a protection order.

Excerpt from the Commentary about the Policy:

The enforcement of court-issued protection orders is critical for a variety of reasons. Schools have a duty to comply with civil and criminal orders of protection. [Most] schools are already doing this, but [the policy] highlights the importance of this duty by explicitly requiring it. Schools also have an obligation to prevent future violence against their students. By helping a student enforce a protection order, schools have the opportunity to protect that student, as well as the entire school, from future acts of violence. The school can also send a message to students who are experiencing dating violence or sexual violence that the school is their ally and will do its part to keep them safe.

Under the Policy, a school’s obligation with regard to a protection order arises when it receives notice that one of its students holds such an order. The school may receive a copy of a protection order directly from a student, a parent, or the student’s attorney. The school may also be notified by a community organization from which the student has been receiving services. Regardless of how or when the school receives notice of a protection order, the obligation to aid in enforcement attaches upon such notice. The school employee first receiving notice of the protection order should notify the [designated school employee] and provide him/her with a copy of the order. The [designated school employee] is responsible for working with the protected student to create a safety plan and determine how to proceed with the order. The [designated school employee] is encouraged to work with the student to create a safety plan regardless of whether the restrained individual is a student at the same school. If the restrained individual is not a student, the safety plan should focus on how to restrict his/her access to the school and how to protect the student’s safety traveling to and from school.

If the restrained individual is a student, the [the policy] requires the school to first make changes to his/her schedule or enrollment in order to satisfy the requirements of the protection order. The school may make changes to the protected student’s schedule or enrollment only after first considering changes to the restrained student’s schedule or enrollment, unless such changes are explicitly requested by the protected student. The Policy seeks to empower students to end abusive relationships; because of this, the school should not discourage the protected student from changing his/her schedule or enrollment in response to a protection order. Absent such a request, however, schools should only change the protected student’s schedule or enrollment if absolutely necessary to protect the student’s safety.

Such changes to the restrained student’s schedule or enrollment need not go through the grievance procedure. Protection orders are granted after a hearing where the restrained individual is granted all the protections of due process. The [policy] does not require the protected student to another hearing, which would require further contact with the restrained student. A properly adjudicated protection order serves the same purpose as a grievance and hearing pursuant to this Policy. The restrained student may dispute changes to his/her schedule or enrollment by filing a grievance.

Commands