Education Law Prom Season Expulsions and Suspensions: Zero Tolerance v. Common Sense

May is prom season and school officials are waiting to impose their zero tolerance, Draconian sanctions on high school seniors just a few weeks from graduation. The most common scenarios include a student acting visibly intoxicated once they get into the dance–vomiting, staggering, or ¬†reeking of alcohol–who is then coerced into giving up the names of everyone they came with and the vehicle they came in. Those students are then interviewed without ever being told they do not have to incriminate themselves and others. Indeed, if they are wise enough not to say anything, sometimes they are charged with failing to cooperate with school rules.

If your child is caught up in one of these incidents all is not lost. Each county, and sometimes each school has its own rules, and I am often able to get these charges dismissed, or at least ameliorated when the school does not follow its own rules. For example, there are specific parameters governing the search of a student which extend to the vehicle he or she came in. In several ways these are more strict than normal criminal rules for a search. If the school does not follow these rules exactly, any evidence seized–drugs, weapons, pills, alcohol–may not be used against the student. Scope of authority issues are also routinely raised–was the drinking all off campus? Did the alleged intoxication cause a disruption at the school event? Another issue is whether the school followed its own rules in providing notice of the charges and evidence as required by the school handbook.¬† Finally, if you think your child was not indulging, take him or her for a drug screen right away.