School Discipline: An Occasional Series on Developments in School Disciplinary Policies and Practices


Last Updated: October 27, 2010
 

This article appeared in the October 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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North Carolina Court Requires Districts to Provide Students with More Info in Discipline Cases

The North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that a Beaufort County student who received a long-term suspension should have been given a reason for the decision that denied alternative education during the punishment.

Viktoria King was suspended for involvement in a school fight but was not provided any education while she was out of school. She sued the school district in trial court, stating that her fundamental right to an education had been denied. The trial court dismissed her case, and the North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld that dismissal. King appealed to the state’s highest court, and the court remanded the case to the trial court to give the school district an opportunity to explain why they denied Viktoria any alternative education.

The decision has a positive effect since it affords students and their families more information about school district discipline decisions. Decisions of school officials are usually given deference by courts, an approach called the “rational basis” analysis. When fundamental rights are in jeopardy, however, courts take a much closer look at government actions, a practice referred to as “strict scrutiny.”

In order to balance the need for schools to make daily decisions about what punishments students should receive with the importance of protecting students’ right to an education, the North Carolina court applied a middle approach in this case, called “intermediate scrutiny” to arrive at its decision.

However, in King v. Beaufort Co. Board of Education, the state’s high court was careful to say that they would not extend full Leandro rights to students in disciplinary trouble with the school. Leandro is the school finance decision that mandates that all students in North Carolina have a right to a sound basic education, and King’s attorneys had argued that the right is also given to students who are suspended. King also had the support of student advocacy organizations from across the country that are working against exclusionary discipline that jeopardizes students’ ability to receive an education.

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Read the N.C. Supreme Court decision here:

New York Times coverage of the decision here:

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Read more from the October 2010 Rural Policy Matters.


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