04
Oct
09

Read this and let me know who is really at fault and why…

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3 Responses to “Read this and let me know who is really at fault and why…”


  1. October 4, 2009 at 7:48 PM

    I continue to find it inconceivable, the lengths to which some people will go. Consider this article from a week ago and let me know what you think.

    A mother of a high school student brought action against the school board in Loveland, Ohio, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from the board’s decision to prohibit the student from playing in 40 percent of the high school football games during 2008. This decision had been made because of the student’s alcohol possession arrest and violation of the school’s code of conduct. The lower court granted a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction.

    Facts of the Case

    Charlie Mather and his father, Eric Mather, signed Loveland High School’s athletic code. The code prohibits students from using or possessing alcohol at any time during the year, both on or off the schoolpremises. It specifies that a first violation leads to the student being dented game participation for 40 percent of the scheduled games.

    Loveland’s school resource officer (an in-school law-enforcement officer) was also a member of the Loveland Police Department. He told Jeff Zidron, Loveland’s athletic director, that over the summer Charlie had been caught by police with alcohol. The officer told Zidron that police had stopped a car and that Charlie had been sitting in the passenger seat with an open can of beer between his legs. He was arrested for underage drinking and possession of alcohol.

    Zidron met with Charlie’s parents and separately with Charlie. No one denied that Charlie had possessed alcohol. Zidron concluded that Charlie had violated the athletic code of conduct and prohibited Charlie from participating in 40 percent of Loveland’s football season.

    Charlie and his parents appealed to Molly Morehead, the principal of Loveland High School. After an informal hearing, More-head upheld the prohibition.

    Complaint

    Susan Mather (Charlie’s mother) moved for a temporary restraining order (to allow Charlie to play the entire football season) and a preliminary injunction, which would prevent Loveland from enforcing its prohibition of Charlie’s participation in extracurricular activities for the remainder of the academic year (allowing Charlie to play lacrosse in the spring).

    Lower Court Decision

    The trial court granted a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, which prevented Loveland from enforcing its prohibition of Charlie’s participation in extracurricular activities for theremainder of the academic year. It reasoned that Loveland had come across the information about Charlie’s arrest illegally, because he was a juvenile and juvenile records are confidential.

    Loveland Appeals

    Loveland argued on appeal that the trial court erred by (1) exercising jurisdiction when there was no statutory right to appeal a school district’s determination about extracurricular activities and (2) holding that the plaintiff had proved a likelihood of succeeding on the merits by clear and convincing evidence, because nothing had prevented the school resource officer from telling the athletic director about the arrest.

    Analysis of the Court of Appeals

    The court noted that it was significant that the Ohio legislature both created a separate statute to address policies for prohibiting students from extracurricular activities and deleted “extracurricular” from the statute concerning the right to appeal a school board’s decision. Further, the court felt that the legislature intended to create a right of appeal to a common pleas court only for curricular activities. Perhaps the legislature reasoned that some issues should be left to school officials and that incidents such as this one should not be dragged into court. The Court of Appeals indicated that courts clearly have no authority to interfere with the exercise of the discretion vested in the Board of Education concerning its creation of a policy on extracurricular school clubs.

    Further, Charlie did not have a constitutional right to participate in sports. In Glenn v. Harper (620 F.2d 302, 1980), the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that there is no constitutionally protected due-process right to participate in sports. In Glenn, the plaintiff was an Ohio cheerleader who had been removed without a hearing from the cheerleading squad. The trial court had determined that Ohio had not created a property interest in participation in sports. Also, it had determined that “nothing in state law guaranteed the plaintiff a right of membership on the cheerleading squad and her legal status under state law was unchanged by her removal from the squad” (620 F 2d 318). Therefore, the court held that the plaintiff had nodue-process right to be a cheerleader and dismissed her complaint, as the trial court should have done in this case. The Sixth Circuit upheld this dismissal.

    Because there is no constitutional right for high school students to participate in sports and because there is no statutory right to appeal a school board’s decision, Charlie and his mother had no legal right of appeal. Thus, the trial court did not have jurisdiction over this case and had no right to prevent Loveland from enforcing Charlie’s prohibition from playing during 40 percent of the football season.

    Finally, the Court of Appeals noted that the Loveland athletic code guarantees students that the school will administer its drug and alcohol policy in accordance with due-process procedures. Charlie was afforded procedural due process, although there is no constitutional right to procedural due process for extracurricular matters. Loveland conducted two separate hearings: the first was before Loveland High School’s athletic director, and the second was before the school principal. Academic decisions are not subject to formal due-process hearings. Instead, an informal meeting between the student and the representatives of the school board is sufficient.

    Holdings of the Court of Appeals

    The Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts holdings. The court reasoned that (1) there was no statutory right to appeal a school board’s determination regarding a student’s suspension from extra-curricular activities, (2) the student had no constitutionally protected due-process rights regarding participation on the high school football lteam, (3) the student was afforded procedural due process in accordance with the high school’s athletic code, and (4) even if the court had jurisdiction over the matter, the student would not be entitled to relief.

    Risk Management Implications

    Leaders in the interscholastic sport area should clearly understand that high school students do not have a constitutionally protected due-process right to participate in any of a school’s sport activities and, therefore, neither the student nor parents have a right to appeal the school board’s decision to prohibit the student from participating in school sport activities, unless a legislative statute permits such an appeal.

    Further, when developing athletic codes, athletic leaders should be aware that although high school students do not have a constitutionally protected due-process right to participate in sport activities, they should be afforded procedural due process in accordance with a high school’s athletic code procedures. Finally, academic decisions subject to due-process procedures set forth in a school’s athletic code are not subject to formal due-process hearings; instead, an informal meeting between the student and the representatives of the school board (e.g., coach, athletic director, school principal) is sufficient.

    RELATED ARTICLE: Disclaimer

    The comments regarding the case presented here are generalized thoughts and not hard law. The cases in Law Review are illustrative of situations that can happen and how the courts have responded to the circumstances. The generalized thoughts may not apply or be proper in all states and jurisdictions and under all circumstances. Finally, it is important to understand that the tips provided may not apply in your state or jurisdiction.

  2. 2 Will
    October 5, 2009 at 6:26 AM

    This piece also appeared in a case study for 3rd year constitutional law students at Harvard. Nah, kidding with that but it could have. It really wasn’t Charlie’s fault for possessing a beer can and clearly he should not be held accountable. It is the fault of the retailer that sold Charlie the beer. He should have known better. Additionally, the person that provided Charlie with fake ID is also to blame. Further, the athletic director is partly to blame because he probably made Charlie sign the code under duress. And of course, middle and junior high schools that Charlie attended should be held accountable and perhaps censured because they did not teach Charlie about the sanctity of contracts. It blows my mind how the school could be so against Charlie and actually expect him to be accountable for his own actions. Shame on them. Don’t they know that there is always someone else to blame?

    • October 5, 2009 at 2:44 PM

      yeah, it’s not like these poor excuses for parents should take responsibility for their own failures or even worse, have the kid be acccountable for his own actions…let’s blame everyone else we can get our hands on.

      i was sick to my stomach when I heard the first court side with the parents. thank god it was finally set straight and the schools decision was upheld.


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