This case study was part of my School Law course at ASU with Professor Curtner. Dr. Curtner provided the scenario and the solution is my original work.
“Bullets in the Mustang”
As part of her duties as school security officer, Samantha Jackson was making her usual morning rounds through the student parking lot. She stopped abruptly beside a restored 1966 Ford Mustang. Did she really see a bullet on the passenger seat? She shaded her eyes and looked again. This time she could make out two or three bullets on the seat and what could possibly be the very tip of a gun handle between the seats. Using her police band radio, she called in the license plate for registration and warrants. She immediately recognized the name and realized that the car was driven by Ricardo “Frisky Ricky” Bingham, the favorite son of a local minister. Ricky, a well-known school Romeo, had recently developed significant problems with attendance and grades. Rumor was that Ricky was seen riding with members of the “Deuce Six Posse” and had become involved with a secret drug ring on campus. Samantha called for an assistant principal, and after a brief explanation, asked him to find Ricky and meet her in the
parking lot. The assistant principal arrived with Ricky who was dressed in baggy designer jeans, an Oakland Raider NFL jersey, and a gold necklace with a small cobra charm. Samantha recognized the cobra charm as a Posse trademark. Samantha and the assistant principal opened the car door. Her pulse quickened as she gingerly pulled a loaded .38 caliber revolver from between the bucket seats of the Mustang. Ricky, looking surprised, would only say, “Don’t look at me. That’s not mine. I don’t know how it got there.”
After reviewing my school’s policies with regards to weapons and due process, I recommend that Ricky Bingham be turned over to the police. The search was conducted by the school security officer with probable cause -- she could clearly see several bullets on the seat inside the car and the tip of what appeared to be a gun. The bullets were in plain sight and a violation of school rules; in addition, the car was located on school property. A gun on school property represents an urgent threat to the safety of students and faculty and merits an immediate response. New Jersey v. T.L.O. established that the warrant requirements are unsuited to the school environment and even though a school security officer conducted the search, there was ample probable cause and individualized suspicion. The appropriate action at this point in the scenario is to call the police and turn the matter over to them. The school should call the parents of Ricky and inform them that he is being arrested.
My school does not have a zero tolerance policy for weapons, but the student handbook clearly states that any student in possession of a weapon on campus will be punished with a suspension and possible expulsion. We would handle the matter by having a meeting with Ricky’s parents where we informed them that Ricky was on indefinite suspension until his court case. If Ricky is found not guilty by the court, once the court case is finished he is free to return to school, but we recommend that the parents voluntarily withdraw him. If Ricky is found guilty by the court, we would move for expulsion.
In Korea, firearms are not legal; therefore, the idea of bringing a loaded weapon to any school campus is a very serious legal matter. Our Business Officer Manager, Mr. Choi (a local hire Korean), explained that in this type of situation Ricky would receive at least five years in prison but probably more. Apparently, in the Korean legal system, judges are given a fair amount of leeway when sentencing convicted criminals and they have a tendency to be very concerned with matters of public safety.
Recently the Korean Ministry of Education has asked the congress to enact new legislation about school discipline procedures. In the past, teachers and administrators were allowed to physically beat students who “misbehave.” There was no recourse for these students, school officials were the law within schools and their authority was beyond questioning. Within the last ten years, the Korean government as written new laws abolishing the beating of students and instituting due process procedures loosely based on those in the US. The spread of actually following the new laws has been slow; Korea is a country based on Confucianism and tradition is a highly valued. Korean public and private schools must now follow due process when punishing students. I sincerely believe that these new laws are changing the educational system for the better. International schools within Korean are outside of the jurisdiction of the Korean Ministry of Education, but we often comply with rules they enact for Korean public and private schools out of respect; we are visitors in their country and complying with their laws shows we are good visitors. For the most part, the international schools have lead the way with regards to things like due process and abolishing corporal punishment. At my school, we have always had due process procedures in place; our parents are generally happy with the school discipline program according to surveys we have conducted for accreditation.