J.G. got in trouble on the school bus. The principal questioned J.G. and told him to write up his own explanation of what happened. After considering the matter, the principal suspended J.G. for a few days. Later in the year the school informed J.G.’s parents that he would not be allowed to enroll in the district the following year. J.G. did not live in the district—he was a transfer student.
The boy’s mother sued the district, alleging that it had (1) violated his right to due process, (2) deprived him of his right to an education, and (3) discriminated against him on the basis of race. The school district filed a Motion to Dismiss all three claims, and succeeded on two out of three. The court dismissed those first two claims, but kept the third claim alive.
As to due process, the court pointed out that it’s permissible for a principal to question a student without first notifying the parent. It’s permissible to require the student to give a written explanation. None of that deprived the student, or the parent, or the process they were due. In fact, the court noted, that the principal was simply providing the due process required by the Supreme Court case of Goss v. Lopez.
As far as the right to an education, the court noted that J.G. could still go to school in the district where he resided. There is no “right” to transfer to another district. So that claim was denied.
However, the opportunity to transfer cannot be denied in a way that illegally discriminates. The suit alleges that J.G., a Hispanic student, was denied re-enrollment based on the bus incident, whereas there was an Anglo student involved in the incident who was still allowed to transfer. So that part of the case will continue. No doubt if the matters ends up in trial, the district will offer evidence to explain that the decision was not based on race, but rather on some other factor. At this preliminary stage of the game, however, the court is required to accept as true the allegations in the complaint.
The case is Garcia v. Vega ISD. Judge Mary Lou Robinson of the Northern District of Texas ruled on the district’s Motion to Dismiss on January 27, 2017. We found the opinion at 2017 WL 395126.
DAWG BONE: THERE IS NO RIGHT TO TRANSFER, BUT THERE IS A RIGHT NOT TO BE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST ON THE BASIS OF RACE.
File this one under: ADMISSION AND ATTENDANCE
Tomorrow: NSBA and COSA heading to Texas!