Thursday, August 21, 2014

Student Detained and Suspended Over a Dinosaur Story: A Constitutional Breach?

The determinative facts are hard to confirm at this point, but based on news accounts, a student in Summerville, SC made a series of fictional story posts on Facebook as part of a class assignment just before the school year started.  His fictional story was about killing a pet dinosaur and buying a gun to do it.  School officials reported him to the police.  On the first day of class, the police then detained him and searched his locker and backpack.  They did not find anything, but according to the police, the student became irate over the search.  News reports indicate he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct under the state's Disturbing Schools Act, although I have not confirmed the arrest and charge.  The school also suspended him for the week.  Whether the school suspended him for the facebook posts, the purported disorder, or both is unclear.

Based on the current facts as presented, the case seems to raise free speech, substantive due process, search and seizure, and statutory infraction issues.  The devil is in the detail, but it may well be an example of breaching the "Constitutional Limits of Zero Tolerance," which I explain here.  For more on the facts of this individual student's case, see here.

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