Monday, February 25, 2013

School Law Case Study -- Bullets in the Mustang

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.”
My Solution:
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.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thanks @Twitter -- NOT! Officially Moving to Blogger in March.

Moving the Blog from Posterous to Blogger
Now that the guys at Twitter have decided to pull the plug on Posterous, I thought it was wise to announce something about where my blog will be moving in the very near future. As some of you know, I have been cross posting to my Blogger since last year when the Twitter purchased Posterous. I wanted to be like Rob Newberry (@robnewberry) and believe that everything was going to work out and that Twitter would see the amazing abilities and potential of Posterous... As we now know, that didn't happen for whatever reason. I'm over being upset and angry about it and ready to simply move on with my life. I enjoy Twitter far too much to continue being crabby over the Posterous situation, but the incredible short-sightedness of Twitter is simply ridiculous with regard to Posterous. Enough said. I will continue posting at Posterous up until March and then everything will move to Blogger. Bye, bye Posterous! It was a great run.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

School Law Case Study: Senior Shirts

The following case study was used by my professor (Dr. Curtner) in my School Law course at ASU. I found it thought provoking and worth sharing with others. Enjoy!
“Senior Shirts”
This was Sharon Grey’s fifth year as principal of Riverboat High School, and she had to agree that this group of seniors had been a real challenge. The final straw occurred in February. During a snow break, several seniors loaded up in two or three cars and drove the 8 hours to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, the local snowstorms quickly dissipated, and district schools reopened before the students returned. The fact that the school was in session had little impact on the dozen or so seniors in New Orleans, and they decided to stay for a few more days. Apparently, the parents of this group sent them more money and condoned their “senior trip” in spite of the fact that one of the young men managed to get arrested by the New Orleans police and charged with underage drinking. The group returned as heroes to the rest of their senior class and as villains to the staff. Sharon was bound by policy to mark their absences as unexcused, much to the dissatisfaction of several of the students’ parents. In spite of her best efforts, this issue developed into an emotional confrontation between several parents and the Board of Education, with hurt feelings on all sides. “Senior shirts” had been a long tradition at Riverboat High School. Each year the senior class designed a T-shirt, collected money from other seniors, and contracted with a local company to screen print shirts for the senior class. When Sharon first can to Riverboat High School, the shirts were relatively simple items, but they had become more complex and expensive over the past few years. Sharon sighed as she thought about this year’s shirt. The front of the shirt was simple enough. It read SENIORS 2011 and, in script, “The Best is Yet to Come.” However, on the back of the shirt was a purple, green, and gold Mardi Gras mask. Under the mask was the slogan “GOODBYE RHS: BURN IN HELL.” In the background Sharon could make out a figure, clearly female, tied to a cross with flames enveloping the lower torso.
My solution:
As the Supreme Court stated in Tinker, “students possess the same constitutional rights as adults and that these rights do not end at the schoolhouse door.” Students do have rights to free expression, but their rights are balanced by the schools need to maintain an orderly and safe environment to promote the educational process. With regards to freedom of expression the question should focus on whether or not the shirts create a material or substantial disruption to the educational process? It is clear that the entire school community is aware of the events that happened involving the seniors who skipped school and went to Mardi Gras, therefore, a shirt referencing the event calls attention to skipping school and reckless alcohol use. This shirt disrupts the educational process and certainly undermines the school’s authority. The Morse v. Frederick case can be used to justify banning the shirts from school because the message of the shirt is inconsistent with the school’s mission. 
In addition, Scott v. School Board of Alachua County established that schools can ban shirts with symbols on them, if the symbols are considered highly offensive. The image of a person burning on a cross could be understood as a reference to actions of the KKK. Although the school’s location wasn’t provided, it is located within driving distance of New Orleans and can be assumed to be in the Southern part of the US. A reference to the actions of the KKK would be highly offensive to minority students and parents; the administration could ban the shirts to protect students from possible violent confrontations that could arise from students being offended by the symbol of a person being burnt on a cross. Finally, the phrase “burn in hell” is certainly offensive language. In the case Bethel School District v. Fraser the court established that offensive language is not necessarily protected. Students are allowed to have controversial opinions, but that right must be balanced against the school’s interest in teaching appropriate behavior.
Principal Grey’s first action should be to get a photo of the front and back of the shirt and contact her school board and superintendent as soon as possible. Any action she ultimately takes needs the support of her superintendent and the school board, because there is a strong possibility that this will end up in court. Citing court cases like Morse v. Frederick, Scott v. School Board of Alachua County, and Bethel School District v. Fraser she should explain the need to ban the shirts from campus. Using the school’s student handbook, she should draft a document establishing the need to ban the shirt and the consequences for wearing the shirt on campus. In my school, administrators have the right to ban any offensive clothing. For violating the rule, students receive a warning for a first offense with a parent phone call; a detention and parent phone call for a second offense; an in-school suspension (up to three days) and a parental meeting for a third offense; an out of school suspension (up to three days) and a parental meeting for a fourth offense; a possible expulsion for a fifth offense. After contacting and explaining the situation thoroughly to the superintendent and school board, she should call a meeting with the senior class. Explaining very simply and calmly, she should inform the seniors that their shirts will be banned from campus and the consequences for violating the ban. Also, a written letter to the senior parents explaining the reasons for the ban and consequences for violating the ban should also be sent home immediately.