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School Sued Over Discipline
A parent in Florida has filed a lawsuit against his son’s high school to prevent the school district from continuing to impose wrongful discipline methods on his son.
Classroom discipline has been in the spotlight lately as various studies have found that suspensions from school have become the new default discipline tool because a suspension is far easier for administrators to carry out than devoting the time to work with a student on a one-on-one basis to improve their behavior at school. Many parents and educators alike are beginning to think that the whole system of school discipline is outdated and ineffective because too many students are suspended for minor teenage behavior lapses. The numbers show that on average in U.S. high schools, 97% of the students who were disciplined were only guilty of minor discretionary offenses like classroom disruption and insubordination, and just 3%were suspended for serious violations like bringing weapons or drugs to school. Suspension for the 3% is understandable, but suspension across the board is probably discipline overkill.
The school discipline and suspension issue is center stage in Jacksonville, Alabama this week as an attorney there has filed suit on behalf of a parent (Tony Frankum) of a student at Jacksonville High School who is seeking a restraining order and injunction to prevent the school district from continuing to impose wrongful discipline on his son, and in this case that translates to a one year referral to the district’s alternative school following the student’s five day suspension for disciplinary reasons.
The plaintiff’s attorney (Justin Taylor) maintains that the suit stems from the student not having access to a schedule of Advance Placement (AP) courses he was already enrolled in at his normal school. The court documents claim that because the student was enrolled in an academically advanced course load with Calculus, Spanish 2 along with several other AP courses, and those courses are not available at the alternative school, the student has been required to teach himself these subjects. Attorney Taylor said that while the alternative school does provide instruction, it is not nearly at the same level as the student was receiving at his former school.
Although the lawsuit against a school district is not common, when a school board has followed its own policies correctly, the courts will usually back up the school’s authority to mete out the discipline it feels is necessary. In this particular case, the student was said to have committed two class II offenses that included unauthorized absence from school and six counts of forgery of a signature of parent/guardian. It is the school district’s policy that that multiple class II offenses constitute a class III offense, and that triggers a referral to an alternative school.
The final outcome of the litigation against Jacksonville High School is unknown at this point, but it is likely to be affected by the parent’s request for an appeal to the school board, as many cases with punishments like long-term suspension or expulsion often include an appeal to the Board of Education in Florida. At present, the school board has responded by notifying parent Tony Frankum that it will uphold his son’s referral to the alternative school for now, along with the recommendation that he should try to be a model student and work toward earning an early release. As students continue to receive suspensions and expulsions for minor disciplinary actions in U.S. schools, it is very likely that more lawsuits challenging school disciplinary practices will reach courtrooms across the country.
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