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School's `zero tolerance' weapons policy violates student's due process rights.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held in October that a school's policy of expelling ex·pel  
tr.v. ex·pelled, ex·pel·ling, ex·pels
1. To force or drive out: expel an invader.

2.
 students who possess dangerous weapons on school property violated the due process rights of a student who claimed he did not know that he was in possession of a dangerous weapon. (Seal v. Morgan, 229 F.3d 567 (6th Cir. 2000).)

The case was brought by Dustin Wayne Seal, who was expelled from high school after a friend's knife was found in the glove compartment glove compartment
n.
A small storage container in the dashboard of an automobile. Also called glove box.


glove compartment
Noun

a small storage area in the dashboard of a car

Noun
 of his car while it was parked at the school. Seal said he did not know that the knife was in his car while it was on school property.

After his expulsion EXPULSION. The act of depriving a member of a body politic, corporate, or of a society, of his right of membership therein, by the vote of such body or society, for some violation of hi's. , Seal sued the board of education, alleging that the expulsion violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment Fourteenth Amendment, addition to the U.S. Constitution, adopted 1868. The amendment comprises five sections. Section 1


Section 1 of the amendment declares that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are American citizens and citizens
. The trial court set the case for trial on the issue of damages only, effectively granting Seal summary judgment on his due process claim.

On appeal, the Sixth Circuit set forth the applicable standard of review. Government actions that do not affect fundamental rights or liberty interests and do not involve suspect classifications--which are based on certain characteristics, such as race and national origin--will be upheld if they are rationally related to a legitimate state interest, the court said. Applying this standard, the court found that suspending or expelling a student for weapons possession if the student did not knowingly possess any weapon would not be rationally related to any legitimate state interest.

Writing for the majority, Judge Ronald Lee Gilman Ronald Lee Gilman (born 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee) is a judge and a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. He was nominated to the position by Bill Clinton on July 16, 1997 after the seat had been vacated by Herbert Theodore Milburn.  observed, "No student can use a weapon to injure To interfere with the legally protected interest of another or to inflict harm on someone, for which an action may be brought. To damage or impair.

The term injure is comprehensive and can apply to an injury to a person or property. Cross-references

Tort Law.
 another person, to disrupt school operations, or, for that matter, [for] any other purpose if the student is totally unaware of its presence." Indeed, Gilman emphasized, "The entire concept of possession--in the sense of possession for which the state can legitimately prescribe and mete out mete out
Verb

[meting, meted] to impose or deal out something, usually something unpleasant: the sentence meted out to him has proved controversial [Old English metan
 punishment--implies knowing or conscious possession."

The school board had argued that the criminal law requirement of knowing or conscious possession should not apply in school suspension cases. The board insisted that its "zero tolerance policy zero tolerance policy Substance abuse A stance taken by US government, that any type of drug abuse is punishable by incarceration. See Correctional facility, War on Drugs. " required the expulsion regardless of whether Seal knew the knife was in his car.

Under this reasoning, the court noted, a student who had a knife planted in his backpack without his knowledge would be subject to mandatory expulsion even if school administrators and board members believed that the knife had been planted. The board's zero tolerance policy would surely be irrational, the court found, if it punished students who did not knowingly or consciously possess a weapon.

Accordingly, the court remanded the case for the trial court to consider whether Seal consciously possessed the knife.
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Association for Justice
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Levy, Stephanie
Publication:Trial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Words:437
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