School Law Advisor Blog

Federal Student Discipline Due Process Decision

          In what is likely the last pre-SB100 federal decision handling due process for a suspended students, Dietchweiler v. Lucas grappled with the due process requirements for a student who received a ten-day out of school suspension for his involvement in an incident involving prescription drugs on school grounds.  The majority of the student's complaints about the Board of Education's suspension review hearing relate to allegations that the Board failed to follow its own published policies and procedures relating to student suspensions.  As the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals responds and reiterates:  "[b]ut as we have repeatedly explained, a failure to follow state statutes or state-mandated procedures does not amount to a federal due process claim of constitutional magnitude.  Citing Charleston v. Bd. Of Tr. of Univ. of Ill., 741 F.3d 769, 733 (7th Cir. 2013)("[W]e will be clear once more: a plaintiff does not have a federal constitutional right to state-mandated process.")
          Districts have been busily preparing for the full implementation of SB100's new Illinois requirements, but this case provides some reassurance prior to SB100's effective date that the SB100 mandated procedures will not give rise to federal claims under the United States Constitution and its due process requirements.
           The Seventh Circuit Appellate Court was troubled with the school district's handling of the case, including a failure to inform the plaintiff of whether he was actually being charged with taking, possession or distribution of the prescription drugs and with the administrators' threat that the student would face expulsion unless he failed to admit the charges against him in the pre-suspension interview with the student.
           While these concerns may still present legal issues at the state-level, this case affirms the minimum Goss requirements of constitutional due process: (1) oral or written notice of the charges against the student, and, if the student denies them, (2) an explanation of the evidence the authorities have, and (3) an opportunity to present his side of the story.