School Climate & Safety

Court Refuses Case Seeking Appeal of Student Expulsion

By Mark Walsh — January 15, 1997 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Washington

The U.S. Supreme Court refused last week to take a case that argued that a student who brought a gun to school had the right to appeal the principal’s decision to expel him.

The high court on Jan. 6 rejected without comment an appeal by the parents of Veltran Trujillo Jr., who was expelled from his Taos, N.M., junior high school in 1993 after school officials found a .22-caliber pistol in his gym locker.

The 7th grader was expelled after a hearing with the principal of Taos Junior High School. He also completed six months of probation after being found delinquent by juvenile authorities.

The boy’s parents were unable to get the district superintendent to review the principal’s expulsion, leading to a federal lawsuit alleging that the punishment was unduly harsh. The Trujillos said their son was an honor student and had never been in trouble before, and they argued that the lack of an appeal procedure violated their son’s constitutional right to due process of law.

Both a federal district court and appeals court rejected those arguments.

A federal district judge ruled that the principal had ample authority to expel Mr. Trujillo, and that his parents had adequate notice of the possible expulsion before the hearing. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit unanimously upheld the ruling.

In their appeal to the Supreme Court, the Trujillos asked the justices to spell out the due process protections for students in cases of long-term suspensions and expulsions. In a 1975 case, Goss v. Lopez, the high court said students facing suspensions of up to 10 days deserve at least minimal notice and a chance to be heard. Longer suspensions and disciplines may require more formal procedures, the court said. But the high court has yet to spell out what those procedures should be.

The Trujillos’ appeal claimed that in most cases across the country where students have been removed from school for more than 10 days, “the student was allowed to appeal to a higher authority the decision suspending or expelling him.”

The case was Trujillo v. Taos Municipal Schools (Case No. 96-695).

Agency-Fee Case

In separate action last week, the high court avoided a dispute between the National Education Association and several nonunion educators in Michigan over so-called agency fees.

The justices rejected an appeal from the NEA and its state and local affiliates in Michigan. A federal appeals court ruled in favor of nonunion teachers who questioned whether some of their mandatory service fees were paying for activities other than collective bargaining.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled last year that nonunion educators have a right to examine union financial documents in lawsuits challenging the propriety of agency fees.

The unions argued in their appeal in Michigan Education Association-NEA v. Bromley (No. 96-429) that the 7th Circuit ruling upsets a system based on previous high court rulings under which an arbitrator decides disputes over service-fee amounts involving people who are not union members.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene means the nonunion teachers’ case goes back to a federal district court in Michigan.

Other Action

Meanwhile, the high court took action in the following education-related cases in December:

  • In Roslyn Union Free School District v. Hsu (No. 96-583), the justices let stand a federal appeals court ruling that a Christian students’ club could require its officers to be Christian despite a high school’s non-discrimination rules for clubs.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that the Walking on Water Club at Roslyn (N.Y.) High School had the right under the federal Equal Access Act to require its officers to be Christian.

The requirement “is essential to the expressive content of the meetings and to the group’s preservation of its purpose and identity,” the court said.

The Roslyn school district, in its appeal to the Supreme Court, argued it was important to enforce “uniform standards of conduct” for all students and clubs.

The high court rejected the appeal without comment on Dec. 16.

  • On that same day, the court ruled that Mississippi cannot bar poor people from appealing the termination of their parental rights just because they cannot afford court costs.

The court ruled 6-3 in M.L.B. v. S.L.J. (No. 95-853) that a parent-child relationship involves protections of personal liberty under the 14th Amendment. The court overturned a ruling by the Mississippi Supreme Court that barred a mother who could not afford $2,000 in court costs from appealing a lower court decision that ended her parental rights and allowed her children to be adopted by the new wife of the children’s father.

“We place decrees forever terminating parental rights in the category of cases in which the state may not bolt the door to equal justice,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the majority opinion.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety What the Research Says A Hallmark of School Shooters: Long History of Social Rejection
New research finds that shooters in K-12 schools are more often "failed joiners" than loners.
5 min read
Butler County Sheriff Deputies stand on the scene at Madison Local Schools, in Madison Township in Butler County, Ohio, after a school shooting on Feb. 29, 2016.
Sheriff deputies were on the scene of a shooting at Madison Local Schools, in Butler County, Ohio, in 2016.
Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP
School Climate & Safety 4 Myths About Suspensions That Could Hurt Students Long Term
New longitudinal research shows that longer in- and out-of-school suspensions have severe consequences for students.
5 min read
Image of a student sitting at a desk in a school hallway.
Jupiterimages/Getty
School Climate & Safety Photos The Tense and Joyous Start to the 2021 School Year, in Photos
Students are headed back to school with the threat of the Delta variant looming. How is this playing out across the country? Take a look.
School Climate & Safety Former NRA President Promotes Gun Rights at Fake Graduation Set Up by Parkland Parents
A former NRA president invited to give a commencement address to a school that doesn’t exist was set up to make a point about gun violence.
Lisa J. Huriash, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
2 min read
David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, speaks during the CPAC meeting in Washington on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2010.
David Keene, the former president of the NRA, promoted gun rights in a speech he thought was a rehearsal for a commencement address to graduating students in Las Vegas. The invitation to give the speech was a set up by Parkland parents whose son was killed in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP