State Court and Lower Federal Court Decisions

Article excerpt

Decision in the 5th Cir. is unpublished.

This review reports all of the Supreme Court activity in education law reported by the BNA Supreme Court Reporter published during the months of July 1st, 2002-Sept. 30th, 2002.

Primary and Secondary Education

Constitutional Claims and Civil Rights

Student's parent sued school district alleging that son's expulsion violated his due process rights. A school district expelled a student after learning from a confidential informant that the student was one of five high school students planning to enter the school with guns and shoot several students and school officials. School officials notified the student of the expulsion hearing to be held at school district property. Despite a temporary restraining order restricting the student from school grounds, school officials faxed a message to student's counsel on the day of the hearing, encouraging the student to attend. The parent alleged that her son was not given a meaningful opportunity to be heard because the expulsion hearing was held on school property and a temporary restraining order prevented him from going to the school. Held: For the school district. The school district's expulsion procedures provided the student with notice of the charges against him, notice of the time of hearing and a full opportunity to be heard. Therefore, the school district did not violate the student's procedural due process rights. Remer v. Burlington Area Sch. Dist., 286 F.3d 1007 (7th Cir. 2002).

Students who had been expelled from school for violating dress code brought suit against city, board of education, and school board officials. Students were suspended and then expelled from school for violating the dress code and alleged that the enforcement of the school's dress code violated their rights and liberties under the Constitution and their rights to free public education. In addition, the parents of the students brought suit alleging that enforcement of dress code violated their right to exercise parental autonomy. Held: For the city, its board of education, and school board officials. The school dress code did not violate any right of freedom of speech or expression. The school dress code policy was rationally related to reducing actual disruptions and loss of instructional time caused by student's preoccupations with fashionable clothing. In addition, enforcement of the dress code did not deprive student of free public education. Finally, parents did not establish claim that their right to exercise parental autonomy was violated by enforcement of the school dress code. Byars v. City of Waterbury, 795 A.2d 630 (Conn. Super. 2002).

Suspended student and mother asked court to declare that the standard requiring a showing of substantial and competent evidence in student suspension hearings was unconstitutional. School used "substantial and competent" evidence as the standard of proof, as opposed to the more stringent "preponderance of the evidence" standard in public school suspension hearings. Suspended student and his mother alleged that the use of substantial and competent evidence standard at student suspension hearings creates an unacceptable risk of erroneous deprivation of the liberty and property interest of the student. Held: For the school board. Faithful adherence to that standard of proof assures protection of the student's constitutionally protected interests in a suspension hearing where the burden of proof and evidentiary rules imposed are not as stringent as in a formal trial. Therefore, the substantial and competent standard of proof does not violate a student's constitutional due process rights. In re Bd. of Educ. of the City Sch. Dist. of the City of N. Y. v. Mills, 741 N.Y.S.2d 589 (2002).

School district, school children, and taxpayers brought suit to declare State's system of funding public education unconstitutional. School district along with four poor school districts, five school children, and five taxpayers filed suit alleging that the State had not met its constitutional obligation to define an adequate education and that the provision for funding an adequate education was unconstitutional on its face. …