Supreme Court affirms
That is what the Minnesota Supreme Court stated on the matter of the appeal of the expulsion of former honor student Alyssa Drescher from United South Central Public Schools. She was expelled for accidentally leaving a pocket knife in her purse after doing morning farm chores back in April of 2014.
That means the Minnesota Supreme Court has sided with Drescher in her case against USC.
Drescher was expelled from the school for six weeks and returned to high school in the fall of 2015 and graduated, but expulsion stayed on her record.
That is, until Wednesday’s Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, which agreed, with a lower court ruling, to remove the expulsion from Drescher’s academic record.
The case states, “the school found out about the presence of the knife when USC had a random search for controlled substances on April 15, 2014. During the search, the building was put on ‘lock down’ and the students were required to remain in their classrooms. Officials used a drug-sniffing police dog to conduct the search and the dog alerted on Drescher’s locker. When the school liaison officer searched Drescher’s unlocked locker, he observed a three-inch folding pocketknife in the side pocket of a purse that was hanging in Drescher’s locker. The officer secured the pocketknife and informed the principal.”
The court record goes on to say that two hours after the search, the officer and school principal called Drescher into the principal’s office and asked if she knew the purpose of her being called into the office. Drescher said she admitted that she had brought the pocketknife to school and explained that she used the pocketknife to cut twine on hay bales at her boyfriend’s family farm.
She stated she visited the farm the weekend prior to school, and while she typically removes the pocketknife, “totally forgot” the item was in her purse until the school announced the lock down that morning in 2014.
Then, on April 21, Drescher and her parents received a “notice of proposed expulsion” from the district stating three separate reasons for expulsion, including “a willful violation of any reasonable school policy,” “willful conduct that significantly disrupts the rights of others to an education,” and “willful conduct that endangers the pupil or other pupils.”
An expulsion hearing was held on April 24, 2014, before the USC School Board, where the board decided to expel Drescher for six weeks “based on her willful violation of reasonable School Board regulations, and willful conduct that endangered the student, other pupils and surrounding persons,” says the court report.
Drescher then appealed the board’s decision, and the appeal was rejected, ruling that the board’s “findings were supported by substantial evidence.”
The Commissioner of Education later “determined that Drescher ‘placed the knife in her purse and brought it to school’ and ‘had actual knowledge that having a knife in her purse in her school locker was a violation of the District’s weapons policy,” says the court document.
Between Drescher and the USC School Board, as well as the Commissioner of Education, arguments ensued about the language of the school’s policy and what the term “willful violation” truly meant.
The Supreme Court stated in its ruling, “the District argues the phrase ‘willful violation’ also includes actions taken in ‘careless’ or ‘reckless’ disregard of school policy. The District also argues that Drescher did not have to know that she was in violation of the policy for the District to have grounds to dismiss her. Neither of these arguments is consistent with the plain meaning of ‘willful violation.'”
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 3 that Drescher’s case “did not present a willful violation of school policy, or present a threat to safety” and stated that “a student cannot intentionally violate a policy or conform to its requirements, without first knowing that it exists.”
This was alluding to when the District argued in the case that “a student does not need to be aware of a school policy in order to be expelled for willfully violating the policy,” says the Supreme Court Document, “We disagree.” was the Supreme Court’s response.
USC’s new superintendent Keith Fleming had this to say: “This decision has many implications to it and of course we will be working with our school board association and superintendent association to look for guidance for the future in light of the result of this decision. I am assuming there will also be clarifying discussions on our policy in the future.”