Suit challenges Wisconsin law allowing school districts to deny enrollment to students expelled from their previous school
Wisconsin State Journal reports that a student who was expelled from his previous school is suing Oregon School District (OSD) in Dane County Circuit Court. OSD denied the student enrollment based on a Wisconsin law allowing school districts to do so if the student has been expelled by another district. The suit claims the law violates the state constitution.
OSD denied enrollment to a middle school student after the Janesville School District expelled him in November 2011. The student was expelled after serving suspensions for an alleged sexual assault and possession of tobacco on campus, according to the complaint. The student denied both charges, the complaint states.
Jeffrey Spitzer-Resnick, an attorney with Disability Rights Wisconsin, said his organization disapproves of the expulsion law, which has been on the books since 1997. The state constitution guarantees a free education to all students between the ages of 4 and 20. Spitzer-Resnick contends that by denying an education to hundreds of students a year, the state is increasing the chances they’ll end up in prison. According to the complaint, no state court has addressed the constitutionality of the expulsion law. Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 decision involving the Madison School District that circuit courts can’t require school districts to provide educational services for students who were lawfully expelled.
Dan Rossmiller, government affairs director for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, said the lawsuit challenges the prevailing attitude in the state on the issue. “The paramount concern for school districts is the safety of the educational environment,” Rossmiller said. “That’s why we have provisions for expulsion of students who can’t get along in a normal educational environment.”
Source: Wisconsin State Journal, 2/2/12, By Matthew DeFour
[Editor's Note: In July 2011, Legal Clips summarized the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision referenced above, Madison Metropolitan Sch. Dist. v. Circuit Court for Dane Ctny. The court held 4-3 that a Wisconsin state court does not have statutory authority to order a school district to provide alternative educational services to a student expelled from school in accordance with a lawful and unchallenged expulsion order. The court concluded that even though state law governing delinquency petitions requires a school board to cooperate with the court in regard to a student or former student who is the subject of a delinquency petition, that law “does not require a school board or a school district to provide alternative educational resources to a juvenile who has been expelled from school” pursuant to the statute governing a school board’s authority to expel a student.]