Long-Term Suspensions and the Right to an Education: An Alternative Approach

BY Mary P. Kenyon

On January 18, 2008, a fight broke out at Southside High School in Beaufort County, North Carolina, between several groups of students. During the melee, Viktoria King, a tenth grade student, engaged in a minor fistfight with another student. The fight did not involve weapons and did not result in any serious injuries. However, both girls were suspended for the rest of the school year and were denied access to the county’s alternative school.

Part I of this Recent Development discusses the court’s decision in King. Part II discusses the discriminatory application of school disciplinary policies as well as policy considerations regarding school funding and its connection to end of grade testing and performance under the No Child Left Behind Act (“NCLB”).  Within Part II, this Recent Development argues that strict scrutiny should apply to alternative education decisions because all decisions that deny students the right to an education infringe on a fundamental right; and, alternative education decisions are inextricably linked to school funding decisions, which the King majority concedes require strict scrutiny under Leandro.  Finally, Part III provides a legislative solution to the problem of access to an alternative education. The current law, which merely requires each district to implement some type of program, is insufficient to meet the needs of a significant portion of students. The legislature should require school districts to provide an alternative education to students whenever there is a way to do it safely. Failing to implement adequate programs is an insufficient reason to deny a student the opportunity to an education.

DOWNLOAD PDF | 90 N.C. L. Rev.293 (2011)