Arizona High Court Refuses to Hold Student Criminally Liable

Last Updated: February 24, 2011

This article appeared in the February 2011 Rural Policy Matters.

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The Arizona Supreme Court has held that a student who cursed at a teacher did not violate the state’s law against “knowingly abusing a teacher or other school employee on school grounds or while that person is performing his or her duties.”

The student, who had been placed in in-school suspension, cursed at the teacher in the classroom on two separate occasions. The school alleged that in doing so the student violated state criminal law. A state court commissioner found the student delinquent.

The high court overruled that decision, saying that “pure speech” should only be limited in very narrow circumstances. The high court refused to apply the state teacher abuse law in this case and noted that the behavior could be properly punished by school discipline procedures rather than criminal laws.

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