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In re Expulsion of I.A.L.

February 17, 2004

IN THE MATTER OF THE EXPULSION OF I.A.L. FROM OSSEO AREA SCHOOLS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 279.


Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Presiding; Lansing, Judge; and Wright, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Expulsion proceedings that are initiated within a reasonable period after the alleged misconduct and that do not result in suspension for more than the 15-day statutory maximum do not violate the student's due process rights to timely proceedings.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wright, Judge

Affirmed

Minnesota Department of Education

OPINION

By writ of certiorari, relator challenges the order of respondent the Minnesota Department of Education, affirming relator's expulsion by respondent school district. Relator argues that (1) a 29-day delay between the initial suspension and the initiation of expulsion proceedings violated the procedural due process guarantees of the United States Constitution and (2) there is insufficient evidence to support the commissioner's decision. We affirm.

FACTS

On January 24, 2003, I.A.L. engaged in a fistfight with another student, R.S.J., in the cafeteria of Brooklyn Junior High School. School employees Gretchen Jensen, Kendall Olson, Kristofor Rosenberg, and Dennis Wall were supervising the cafeteria when the fight began. Upon seeing the girls fighting, the cafeteria supervisors moved toward the girls and repeatedly directed them to stop fighting. But the girls continued to fight. In an attempt to break up the fight, Jensen stepped between I.A.L. and R.S.J. I.A.L. hit Jensen and pulled out hair from Jensen's head. When Jensen told I.A.L., "You're not hitting her, you're hitting me," I.A.L. stopped fighting.

On the day of the fight, I.A.L. was suspended for five days. On January 29, the Osseo Area Schools Independent School District No. 279 (school district) notified I.A.L.'s parents that it was suspending I.A.L. for a second five-day period, effective February 3, and recommending expulsion of I.A.L. An attorney for the school district contacted I.A.L.'s parents on February 7 to review I.A.L.'s options in light of the recommendation for expulsion. I.A.L.'s mother expressed her intent to proceed with an agreement in lieu of expulsion. The school district faxed a copy of the agreement to I.A.L.'s mother on February 11 and did not commence expulsion proceedings. When contacted by the school district on February 25, I.A.L.'s mother advised that she wanted to confer with an attorney regarding the agreement. On March 3, I.A.L.'s attorney served a temporary restraining order on the school district and indicated that I.A.L. and her parents declined to enter into an agreement in lieu of expulsion.

Upon receipt of the temporary restraining order, the school initiated expulsion proceedings and suspended I.A.L. for another five-day period, beginning March 5.*fn1 On March 7, the school district served a notice of intent to expel I.A.L. for 12 months. An independent hearing officer conducted an expulsion hearing on March 11. On March 18, the school board adopted the hearing officer's recommendation to expel I.A.L. for 12 months. I.A.L. appealed the decision to the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning (MDE), the predecessor to the Minnesota Department of Education. The MDE affirmed the school board's expulsion of I.A.L., and this appeal followed.

ISSUES

I. Did the delay between the incident giving rise to the expulsion and the initiation of expulsion proceedings violate ...


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