John Harrington was supposed to be the lead actor in the school play. This would nicely cap the high school career of young Mr. Harrington, a well-respected senior and member of the National Honor Society. But the assistant principal accused him of plagiarism, gave him two days of after school detention and barred him from the school play. We can learn three things from the subsequent lawsuit.
First, a student is not entitled to “due process” when assigned to after school detention. Process is due under the constitution when students are deprived of their right to attend school via a suspension or expulsion. After school detention does not implicate the constitutional right to due process. This kid had another problem with this argument—he never served the time. The parents appealed the A.P.’s decision to the principal, and the principal revoked the detention.
Second, removal from the school play—even the lead role in the school play—does not require due process. The court cited an earlier case for the notion that “exclusion from a particular course, event or activity is of no constitutional import.”
Third, you are going to have a hard time proving a disability-based discrimination case when there is a non-disability reason for what happened. The student acknowledged that the reason he was removed from the lead role in the school play was because of alleged plagiarism, not his disability. So there was no basis for a Section 504/ADA case.
The case is Harrington v. Jamesville Dewitt Central School District, decided by the federal district court for the Northern District of New York on April 11, 2017. We found it in Special Ed Connection at 69 IDELR 235.
DAWG BONE: YOU JUST HAVE TO WONDER IF THE CASE COMES OUT DIFFERENTLY IF THE PLAY WAS “HAMILTON.”
See you next week!