Public School Is A Property Right: The Connor Betts Case

Jim Geraghty on Connor Betts’ expulsion and readmittance

(Really? This is how schools are handling a student who threatens to rape, kill, and skin the bodies of other students? Readmittance after a letter of apology? How safe would you feel sending your children to that school knowing they handled this kind of a threat this way?)

Any Ohio public school that permanently expelled a student for nothing more than making a hate list would be violating  Ohio law. Notice all the time limits?

…the superintendent of schools of a city, exempted village, or local school district may expel a pupil from school for a period not to exceed the greater of eighty school days or the number of school days remaining in the semester or term in which the incident that gives rise to the expulsion takes place…

.. Unless a pupil is permanently excluded pursuant to section 3313.662 of the Revised Code, the superintendent of schools of a city, exempted village, or local school district shall expel a pupil from school for a period of one year for bringing a firearm to a school ..

…The board of education of a city, exempted village, or local school district may adopt a resolution authorizing the superintendent of schools to expel a pupil from school for a period not to exceed one year for bringing a knife capable of causing serious bodily injury.

Wonder what allows a school to at least consider permanent expulsion?  The student has to be convicted of:

  • murder
  • drug dealing
  • aggravated assault
  • rape
  • possession of a deadly weapon

But expulsion can be permanent if and only if he or she is over 16 or older. And of course, forget all those criteria for the disability manifestation exclusion–if the student was convicted but disability is the reason for the behavior, no action can be taken.

State laws vary, but not that much. Expulsion isn’t permanent in most states. Ohio was in fact the state whose law led to the  controlling public school due process  decision  Goss v. Lopez:

We do not believe that school authorities must be totally free from notice and hearing requirements if their schools are to operate with acceptable efficiency. Students facing temporary suspension have interests qualifying for protection of the Due Process Clause, and due process requires, in connection with a suspension of 10 days or less, that the student be given oral or written notice of the charges against him and, if he denies them, an explanation of the evidence the authorities have and an opportunity to present his side of the story.

We should also make it clear that we have addressed ourselves solely to the short suspension, not exceeding 10 days. Longer suspensions or expulsions for the remainder of the school term, or permanently, may require more formal procedures.

When the Supreme Court says education is a property right, expulsion becomes a temporary matter.

So yeah, Connor Betts had a hit list and a rape list, and none of those come anywhere near the list above. You don’t have to know the details of the school’s decision process to see it doesn’t really qualify. Sorry.

Virginia, where I think Geraghty lives, has considerably more lax expulsion and suspension procedures–that is, schools have more rights than students–but the state’s under pressure to change them. Northam and the VA legislature have already restricted long-term suspensions.

I wonder if Jim notices some small dissonance between his mockery of weeny overreactive schools  and his fury at a public school for not overreacting sufficiently to a hate list–law be damned.

Most idiocies inflicted on public schools were funded by the left side of the political spectrum. But rather than fighting back, the right tends to just sneer at public school requirements and preach the salvation of charters and choice.  That won’t work. Charters are bound by the same laws, and once a district becomes all charter, the pressure to restrict expulsions and suspensions will kick in. Ask New Orleans.  (By the way, there’s a lesson here for Uber and Lyft, too, provided they last that long.)

I don’t have any answers to the many other “why” questions involving the Dayton murders. But I do wish more people who casually complain about public schools would spend more time learning how much public schools are constrained by case law, much of it written by the Supreme Court.

Hey, under 1000.


Note: In case it’s not clear, I don’t think a hate list  is an automatic reason for permanent expulsion.  I’m just troubled by the degree to which the Supreme Court and other lower courts place limitations on schools without really understanding the world of education. And more troubled by people who complain about public school limits without acknowledging the work of the courts  in putting these limits in place.



About educationrealist

6 responses to “Public School Is A Property Right: The Connor Betts Case

  • Edlharris

    Oh, you are hoping too much.

  • Peter Gerdes

    After the fact it is easy to call something a hit list. Yet, so many kids who are bullied or picked on in school take refuge in revenge fantasies or artwork that can, under the right circumstances, be viewed as some kind of hit list and those picking on them make sure that material gets found.

    Sure, in an ideal world smart teachers and administrators would distinguish between the unhappy bullied kid in the corner drawing cartoons which show him getting even and the truly troubled kid who seems intent on carrying out such actions. But do you really believe that, practical pressures being what they are, that if it *wasn’t* illegal to permanently expel such students that administrators would feel comfortable making that decision based on their own best judgement especially in white suburban schools?

    I know lots of kids who had little revenge fantasies in their notebooks growing up (especially kids who didn’t quite fit into the schools/classes they found themselves in) who became good productive citizens without any inclination to violence and I fear the harm from allowing administrators pressured by parents more discretion in the districts with over-involved parents. I mean it might be that we want more discretion in official’s hands in poorer districts where violence is more likely and less in districts where it’s more likely to be parents panicking over nothing. But it’s unclear.

    Secondly, there is a serious issue of constitutional rights here. Students don’t, and shouldn’t, completely lose their free speech rights and I suspect in most cases there just isn’t enough evidence to show that a ‘hit list’ constitutes an actual true threat when it isn’t publicly posted.

    • educationrealist

      Yep. I agree with all that. But I also get irritated by the unthinking bitching about public schools, as if they do this stuff all by themselves.

      • Roger Sweeny

        True, but they don’t fight it either. The NEA and the UFT don’t lobby about or place op-eds about it. Nobody makes it part of their, “if we endorse you, we expect you to support X,Y,Z.” It gets treated like the weather.

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  • Kronos

    “I don’t have any answers to the many other “why” questions involving the Dayton murders. But I do wish more people who casually complain about public schools would spend more time learning how much public schools are constrained by case law, much of it written by the Supreme Court.”

    Naaa, that would require time/effort that’ll eat into their “rage rant” time. Despite the average person spending 10+ years in school, the vast majority don’t understand education law/procedures. (Or anything else for that matter.) Besides the highly celebrated “Brown v. Board of Education” most don’t understand how anything (curriculum, funding, districting) works. (It’s why I love this site!)

    The thing is, those who know better (journalists) will throw it out the window. Maybe (NR) will change their tune once the first private/charter school shooting occurs.

    I love how video games always get singled out for these events. It’s the last B.F. Skinner Behavioralist “death rattle” of legacy media. They’ve given up criticizing sex and violence on TV decades ago, but video games are (for reasons unexplained) a whole different animal.

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