FILE:  JCAA

 

DUE PROCESS

 

 

Due process within the Pointe Coupee Parish School System, though a basically flexible and imprecise concept, shall be defined as "fair play" or fair and reasonable approaches to all areas of student governance and discipline on the parts of all school officials.

 

On the one hand, a general interpretation of due process in its sub­stantive and procedural realms recognizes that students are endowed with basic constitutional rights which are not "shed at any schoolhouse door."  On the other hand, the granting of due process must recognize the distinct obligations of Board members and professional staff members to maintain within each school, and integral parts thereof such as classrooms, gyms, cafeterias or auditoriums a proper atmosphere for learning; this means simply an atmosphere in which there exist no material interferences or substantial disruptions of the learning process.  The adherence to this obligation mandates that recognition of such substantive rights as Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, Rights of Privacy, Freedom of Press and related aspects of substantive law must be done within this one major parameter: that is to say, no exercise of substantive due process rights can create material interference or substantial disruption of the mainten­ance within each school of a proper atmosphere for learning.

 

The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board recognizes that observance of applicable substantive due process entails two (2) basic considerations in every area.  These are: (1) any objective sought relative to student governance must be legally defensible, i.e., based upon accomplishment of a compelling state interest as noted above; and (2) the means taken to assure such accomplishment must be within the constitutional limitations applicable to the in loco parentis positions of school officials within this School District.  To assure compliance with these two (2) due process aspects, the Board has endorsed the following as applicable to all policies, rules and regulations since the Board considers each as a means taken to accomplish the compelling state interest of maintaining a proper atmosphere for learn­ing in each school.

 

  1. Each local school policy, rule or regulations must spell out its purpose, relating same to accomplishment of a legally defensible objective;
     

  2. Each local regulation must be based on a School Board policy;
     

  3. School Board policies, upon which individual schools base their rules and regulations must cite a basis in law or court precedent when dealing with aspects of student governance and/or student discipline.
     

  4. All policies, rules and regulations at any level must be con­sistent with ordinances, statutes of the State of Louisiana, administrative regulations of duly authorized agencies; i.e., State Board or State Department of Education; Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
     

  5. Both Board policies of the Pointe Coupee Parish School Board and regulations designated by local school administrators must be specific and precise.  Vague and overly broad regulations do not adequately meet the due process requirement of adequate notice.
     

  6. No Board policies or local school codes of conduct can deny any students constitutional rights; neither policies nor rules or regulations can violate due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment nor their rights under the Bill of Rights.
     

  7. All discharge of administrative responsibilities and exercise of authority must recognize applicable legal parameters placed upon the in loco parentis positions of school officials.
     

  8. To be fair and reasonable in a legal sense, all exercise of adminis­trative authority or that of other school officials, i.e., class­room teachers, must be capable of surviving close judicial scrutiny relative to freedom from arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory or otherwise illegal practices.  While no judicial decisions have ever insisted that school administrators or teachers use "even truncated trial court due process safeguards," all have mandated that strict adherence be observed concerning those substantive and procedural due process safeguards which were and are applicable in the school setting.
     

  9. Students, parents, citizens, teachers and administrators should all be participants in drawing up local school codes of conduct.

 

The area of procedural due process within the School System shall relate primarily to the area of discipline and disciplinary measures; i.e., corporal punishment, short-term suspension, long-term suspension and expul­sion.

 

The degree of procedural due process afforded in each of the above situations is dependent upon two vital factors: (1) the gravity of the offense a student is alleged to have committed; and (2) the severity of the contemplated penalty.  A much greater degree of procedural due process is applicable in a suspension situation than in one where the penalty is a paddling.

 

Under due process, each student should be guaranteed a fair hearing, a fair trial, a fair judgment, a written record of the decision and notice of his or her right to appeal.  This is applicable to serious penalties such as suspension.

 

The full panoply of procedural due process shall be afforded any stu­dent facing possible long-term suspension or expulsion.  In both of these situations, the Board shall follow an adversary type procedure with legal counsel permitted, cross-examination, transcribed record of the hearing, and related safeguards.

 

While the Board recognizes that the essence of corporal punishment is "swift wages for ones transgressions," it is likewise insistent that what few procedural safeguards are considered applicable by judicial authorities shall be provided in every school.  The Board is equally insistent that all corporal punishment adhere strictly to School Board policies.

 

The Pointe Coupee Parish School Board does not believe that the legal requirements of due process safeguards weaken the authority of school officials at all for courts have ruled overwhelmingly that any fair and reasonable exercise of authority will survive any test of the federal or state courts.  Rather, the Board agrees with Justice White who, in the 1975 Goss litigation, stated, "We have imposed no restrictions upon school officials which the fairminded school principal would not impose upon himself in order to avoid infair or unjust suspensions."  In summary, the Board endorses the following statements from landmark judicial decisions:

 

The Fourteenth Amendment, as now applied to the States, protects the citizen against the State itself and all of its creatures-­Boards of Education not excepted.  These have, of course, important, delicate, and highly discretionary functions, but none that they may not perform within the limits of the Bill of Rights.  That they are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupu­lous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes . . . One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other funda­mental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections...

 

Justifiable restrictions upon such freedoms were noted in the following decision, a part of which is cited:

 

. . . . Conduct in class or out of it which for any reason-whether it stems from time, place, or type of behavior-materially disrupts classwork or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others is, of course, not immunized by the constitutional guarantee of Freedom of Speech. (Blackwell v. Issaquena County Board of Education, 363 F. 2d 749 F5th Circuit, 1966).

 

 

Ref:     U.S. Constitution, Amend. XIII

U.S. Constitution, Amend. XIV, Sec. 1

Ingraham v. Wright, 97 S.Ct. 1401 (1977)

Goss v. Lopez, 95 S.Ct. 729 (1975)

Carey v. Piphus, 98 S.Ct. 1042 (1978)

 

Pointe Coupee Parish School Board