State Supreme Court: ‘Gang contract’ cannot prevent student from attending school

Mar 7, 2024, 12:14 PM | Updated: 12:23 pm

Scales of justice...

Scales of justice. (Photo: Arne Dedert/picture alliance via Getty Images)

(Photo: Arne Dedert/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The Washington State Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in favor of student rights regarding school district disciplinary actions.

The ruling said districts must provide an education to students even if they are expelled.

The case centered around a high school student, M.G., who was expelled from Eisenhower High School in the Yakima School District No. 7 for having a “gang contract.”

Read the complete ruling here.

Court rules that students are protected

The court’s decision highlighted that Washington state law prohibits the indefinite expulsion or suspension of a student without providing them with the required procedural protections. It underscores the importance of due process in student disciplinary proceedings and highlights the need for school districts to adhere to statutory guidelines when imposing disciplinary actions.

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The Yakima School District expelled M.G. on an emergency basis and later extended it to a long-term suspension without following the proper procedures outlined by law.

The Court of Appeals found that M.G. was indefinitely suspended in violation of his statutory procedural rights. They also determined that the case was not moot, as M.G. did not voluntarily withdraw from school following the district’s denial of his request to return to his regular educational setting.

M.G.’s situation arose after the district expelled him for allegedly violating a “gang contract” he had signed while in middle school.

In the ruling:

The basis for expulsion included M.G. wearing a red shirt, which is affiliated with the Norteño gang, and M.G.’s altercation with a student. Approximately two weeks later, the District converted M.G.’s 10-day emergency expulsion into a long-term suspension.

The expulsion was based on incidents involving his attire and an altercation with another student. Despite attempts to appeal the suspension and seek re-enrollment, M.G. faced obstacles, including being enrolled in an online learning program that did not meet his needs.

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Supreme Court affirmed lower court ruling

The court’s decision affirmed the Court of Appeals’ ruling, stating that M.G.’s long-term suspension violated state law. The court also found that M.G. was entitled to compensatory education for the time he was excluded from his regular educational setting.

The district’s response to amicus briefs — legal documents filed in a court case by someone who is not a party to the case — were also addressed in the court’s decision, with some sections being struck down based on M.G.’s motion.

The decision can be viewed as a victory for student rights and may set a precedent for public school districts in the state that must provide an education to a student even though they were expelled.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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