Sanctions for Breaches of Rules

 A. Suspension and Expulsion-- procedural and substantive due process issues

  • Goss v. Lopez
  • Wood v. Strickland
  • Mathews v. Eldridge


  • Alternatives?
    • mediation
    • equal protection analysis
  1.  Suspension---Suspension for Off-Campus Criminal Activity. A student generally may be disciplined for off-campus conduct if school authorities can show that the student's actions have a direct and immediate effect either on school discipline or on the safety and welfare of students and staff.
    1. Pollnow v. Glennon -when a high school student assaulted the mother of his teenage friend at her home during the spring school vacation
    2. Smith v.Little Rock School District--when a student was charged with murder for shooting and killing a fellow student away from school--"expulsion" for the remainder of the semester
  2. Expulsion
    1. Newsome v. Batavia--(6th Cir. 1988), a student expelled for the remainder of a semester on drug allegations was not entitled to cross-examine student accusers, learn their identities, or cross-examine school officials. student argued that his due process rights were violated when he was denied the opportunity to cross-examine his student accusers or at least to know their identities. While recognizing the value of cross-examination to the discovery of truth, the court held that the need to protect the student informants outweighed the value of allowing the accused to cross-examine the informants. In support of its decision the court observed: Without the cloak of anonymity, students who witness criminal activity on school property will be much less likely to notify school authorities, and those who do will be faced with ostracism at best and perhaps physical reprisals.
    2. Draper v. Columbus Public Schools--Student brought § 1983 action to challenge expulsion from public school. Defendants moved for summary judgment. The District Court,held that expulsion complied with procedural due process. Motion granted. Marshall allegedly threatened several other Mifflin students with a knife. This purportedly occurred just after school and just beyond the school yard, while the children were walking home.

    3. Hawkins v. Coleman--action on behalf of himself and a class of black students within school district contesting the adoption, substance and enforcement of the student suspension procedures on the grounds of race discrimination, denial of equal protection, and denial of both substantive and procedural due process. The District Court, held that rules governing student suspensions were not violative of procedural due process, but that record revealed that there was a disproportionate number of blacks being suspended and given corporal punishment within school district, that racism was the chief cause of the situation, and that there was a need for school district to be responsive to needs of black students by acting in terms of institutional and structural changes, in terms of training of teachers and counselors, in terms of training of students to deal with institutional racism, and in terms of community or environment in attempting to push programs of affirmative action, and school district would be directed to review its present program and put into effect an affirmative program aimed at materially lessening 'white institutional racism' in district. See also, 5 Cir., 475 F.2d 1278.

 B. Corporal Punishment--

the willful and deliberate infliction of physical pain on the person of another to modify undesirable behavior


It includes a wide variety of methods such as hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, pinching, shaking, choking, use of various objects (wooden paddles, belts, sticks, pins, or others), painful body postures, use of electric shock, use of excessive exercise drills


Constitutional Injuries?

Fourth, Eighth, Fourteenth Amendments?

 Ingraham v. Wright --two students had been paddled and spanked by school administrators pursuant to a school policy authorizing corporal punishment. The students brought suit claiming, among other things, that the school's application of corporal punishment violated their substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. The former Fifth Circuit rejected that claim, explaining that "the plaintiffs' right to substantive due process is a guaranty against arbitrary legislation, demanding that the law not be unreasonable and that the means selected shall have a real and substantial relation to the object sought to be attained

Garcia v. Meyers -The Tenth Circuit Court stating that "we believe that Ingraham requires us to hold that, at some point, excessive corporal punishment violates the pupil's substantive due process rights --(remanding for trial a case in which a 9-year-old girl was held up by her ankles and hit with a board on the front of her legs until they bled, resulting in a permanent scar).

Fee v. Herndon--Parents of a special education student who allegedly received excessive corporal punishment by the school's principal brought a § 1983 action against the school district and various educators, including the special education teacher who allegedly failed to intervene in the corporal punishment. The District Court for the Southern District of Texas, granted defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, and parents appealed. The Court of Appeals,, held that:

1) Texas law afforded adequate post punishment civil and criminal remedies, and

2) Texas law did not impose upon the teacher a duty to intervene in the corporal punishment.


In Cunningham v. Beavers, two kindergarten children were beaten for "snickering." Each child was forcibly administered five licks from a wooden paddle. The beating was so severe that local child welfare authorities characterized the punishment as child abuse. Despite the severity of the injuries, the Fifth Circuit Court, relying on Ingraham, held that the punishment did not rise to such a level that it implicated the children's substantive due process rights.

Is corporal punishment a seizure?

Even though the Supreme Court in its 1985 decision, New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325 (1985), applied the Fourth Amendment to searches occurring within public schools for violations of school rules, several courts have nevertheless interpreted the dicta in Ingraham as precluding application of the Fourth Amendment to students' corporal punishment claims. See, e.g., Fee v. Herndon, 900 F.2d 804, 810 (5th Cir. 1990) (concluding without analysis that "the paddling of recalcitrant students does not constitute a fourth amendment search or seizure"); 69 GWLR 1


Corporal Punishment in Schools: A Position Paper of the Society for Adolescent Medicine - Journal of Adolescent Health: 1992; 13:240-246

 C. Academic Sanctions--when academic sanctions are used as a response to nonacademic behavior


challenged in three ways:

  • (1) as outside of the authority of the school district, ultra vires;
  • (2) as unreasonable, grades having no connection o truancy or tardiness, a violation of substantive due process--a clear demonstration that reducing the student's grade is reasonably related to a valid educational objective.; and
  • (3) as requiring additional procedures before enforcement to fulfill procedural due process requirements.

 Slocum v. Holton--Mich ct app - challenging board's attendance policy which permitted letter grade reductions of students who, having certain number of excused absences, failed to attend mandatory after-hours study sessions.

The Court of Appeals held that: (1) attendance policy was within board's authority; (2) policy did not implicate liberty or property interest of student deserving of constitutional protection; and (3) even assuming student had constitutionally protected liberty or property interest, attendance policy did not violate student's right to substantive or procedural due process.

New Braunfels v. Armke--Two high school seniors sought to enjoin school district from imposing a scholastic penalty on them which have resulted in each student receiving zeros on all graded class work for each day of a three-day suspension for using alcohol on a school-sponsored trip, as well as having three grade points deducted for each day of the suspension from their six-week grade averages then accruing.

The 2 District Court, entered a declaratory judgment in students' favor and permanently enjoined school district from reducing their grade averages or from imposing any additional disciplinary penalty, and school district appealed.

Court of Appeals, held that:

  • (1) where school district orally adopted valid policy that a student suspended for use of alcohol could receive grade reduction penalties, and students who were subject to such penalties for use of alcohol on school-sponsored trip were present at school assemblies where policy and accompanying grade penalties regarding use of alcohol were clearly explained, students were fairly informed of the policy, the conduct prohibited, and range of penalties attached thereto;
  • (2) reduction of students' six-week grades by three points for each day of suspension had no adverse impact on students' property rights to a public education; moreover, evidence did not show that imposition of the scholastic penalties proposed would have any negative impact on the honor, reputation or name of either student.
    Reversed; permanent injunction dissolved.

Katzman v. Cumberland Valley --. Deborah Katzman, an eleventh grade student at Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania High School, drank a glass of wine with four classmates in a New York City restaurant while on a field trip with her Humanities class. , she was suspended for five days, expelled from the cheerleading squad, prohibited from taking part in school activities for five days, and permanently expelled from the NHS

Parents brought action on behalf of student to challenge action of school board in reducing student's earned grades for disciplinary reasons.

held that policy adopted by school board when it determined to discipline a student for an infraction unrelated to education by reducing her grades in each subject for entire second marking period by ten points, two for each day of suspension, without affording student the option of choosing Saturday work as an alternative, amounted to a clear misrepresentation of student's scholastic achievement for college entrance and other purposes and, as such, represented an illegal application of school board's discretion.