Student Discipline On Trial
After being disciplined for walking out of class to participate in a student protest, a California teenager committed suicide. The school's discipline policy is now on trial:
Attorneys representing a school district argued in federal court that administrators should be allowed to discipline students who are truant, even if they leave class to join a protest to oppose anti-immigration legislation.To what extent should a school be held liable for a student's off campus behavior? That is just one of many questions that this lawsuit touches upon.
Lawyers for the Ontario-Montclair School District said students' First Amendment rights had not been infringed upon when they decided to take part in the March protests.
"As a general matter, walking out of school is an action that can be punished no matter what the reason," Calvin House, an attorney for the school district, said Monday during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Riverside.
The family of 14-year-old Anthony Soltero has filed a federal lawsuit against the school district and the principal and vice principal of De Anza Middle School in Ontario where the teen was enrolled.
Soltero killed himself earlier this year after leaving a note that his family claims linked his suicide to being punished by a school official for leaving campus on the day of an immigration protest. The note has not been released.
The suit claims the boy's civil rights were violated, and that his death was due to the school's negligence. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
The teen's family also is seeking an injunction to bar the district from punishing students who skip class to attend protests. They believe the district would violate the First Amendment rights of its students if they were to be punished for participating in future protests or rallies.
Attorney Samuel Paz said existing case law only allows students to be punished for free-speech behavior that is "materially and substantially disruptive" to the educational process.
Keep your eye on this one.
It could potentially have a far-reaching impact on disciplinary guidelines across the country.