Case Brief: London v. Directors of the DeWitt Public Schools

DeWitt Middle School teacher and coach Jeff Rader found Carl Avery and another student engaged in a “horseplay” in the school cafeteria. Rader asked both boys to leave the cafeteria of which the other student immediately complied. Rader again asked Avery to leave but the boy refused to comply the second time. At this point, Rader began to remove Avery from the cafeteria by force.

The boy, however, fought back and slammed the coach into a table. During the encounter, Rader was able to drag the boy on the floor and banged the boy’s head against the metal pole outside the cafeteria. They proceeded to the principal’s office where each were asked for their version of the story, but Avery struck the hands of the principal in his frustration during the course of the interview, at which point the principal called the police.

School authorities recommended for Avery to be expelled, of which DeWitt School District Superintendent Emerson approved. They informed Ms. London, mother of Avery, and explained the procedures. A hearing was conducted and the school board decided to expel Avery for the remainder of the school year. Ms. London filed a lawsuit where the District Court granted the defendants’ motion for judgement on partial findings, of which Ms.
London filed for an appeal on three grounds, that the District Court erred: “(1) in holding that Rader did not violate Avery’s substantive-due-process rights; (2) in holding that there were no procedural-due-process violations in Avery’s suspension or in his expulsion; and (3) in not ordering the DeWitt School System to submit a remedial plan concerning discrimination in hiring” (United States Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit 1999). The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed with the District Court judgement and dismissed the appeal.
They held that Rader could not have violated Avery’s substantive-due-process rights as he has asked Avery to leave the cafeteria twice. Although Rader banged Avery’s head on a pole, the injury which the boy may have suffered could not have been severe to shock judicial conscience due to the fact that the boy could not even remember which side of his head had been banged. There could also not have been any violation of procedural-due-process as Avery and his mother was appraised of the charges and was given the opportunity to present his side, first in the principal’s office, then on the board hearing.
The plaintiff has also failed in proving a condition of segregated schooling in accusing the DeWitt School System with discrimination hiring. The decision of the Court of Appeals stressed the importance of effective discipline and order to educational processes. This means that educators have their own discrimination how to discipline students but with restrictions that are provided by law. References United States Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit. (1999). London v. Directors of the Dewitt Public Schools, 194 F. 3d 873, 139.

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