New Jersey district scraps “24/7″ student conduct policy

The Courier-Post reports that the Haddonfield School Board has voted to eliminate the “24/7” student-conduct policy at Haddonfield Memorial High School. However, the lawsuits challenging the policy will continue. The board’s enforcement of the policy had been suspended since August 2012 after an appellate court ruled against a Bergen County school district, Ramapo Indian Hills Regional, with a similar policy.

Haddonfield’s policy was initiated in 2009 to curb alcohol and drug use outside of school by students, who could be suspended from extracurricular activities for violating the policy. Haddonfield School Board President Steven Weinstein said the decision to finally end the policy came after the New Jersey Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the Ramapo case. “Once the court ruled in the Ramapo Indian Hills case that policies such as ours aren’t enforceable, we revoked it,” said Weinstein.

Nonetheless, attorney Matthew Wolf plans to move forward with two lawsuits filed by parents as a result of the Haddonfield policy. Wolf said he is fighting for the rights of an estimated 90 students affected by the policy. If the court rules in their favor, it could mean a $600,000 payout in legal fees from the district, he said. According to Wolf, “The school failed to recognize the value of extracurricular activities,” he said. “It is so competitive these days when applying to colleges, and to be kicked off a team — that can affect scholarships.”

While it was in place, Weinstein felt the policy was a success for the district, especially after some controversial episodes with drug and alcohol abuse in town. He cited incidents that involved a student suicide and an out-of-control house party. “It helped to change the culture in town,” Weinstein said of the policy. “The leaders in the school, class officers, National Society members and students who represent the school by wearing a sports uniform were held responsible for their conduct.”

Source:  Courier-Post, 2/18/13, By Phil Dunn

[Editor's Note: The Ramapo Indian Hills case referred to in the article was a decision by the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division. According to the August 2012 Legal Clips summary of G.D.M. v. Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School District, the Appellate Division affirmed the decision of the State Commissioner of Education, ruling that a school district’s regulation barring a student from participating in extracurricular activities for criminal, off-campus conduct is facially overbroad, and exceeds the authority given to school boards under state laws and regulations. The appellate court concluded that the district’s regulation violated state law because it failed to require the school board to show that the alleged conduct “materially and substantially interfered with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school.” The Editor's Note to that Legal Clips summary provides a link to a Legal Clips summary of the Commissioner's ruling.]

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