The Schoolhouse Gate

The Bethel Park School Board, whose meeting room is seen here, voted on August 8 to expel a student who had toys in the trunk of his car.

The student was not invited to defend himself at the proceedings, nor even told that they were underway. This was a wise decision on the part of the school board, as they might have had to explain, had they invited the unfortunate seventeen-year-old and his family, why it was acceptable for “district officials” to poke around in the trunk of his car.

It is, however, an absolute violation of the principle of due process, as, it is likely, was the original search. Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas famously wrote “neither students nor teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” I like to think that other constitutional rights are retained also, such as a protection against unreasonable search and seizure and the right to confront one’s accusers.

Also missing here is a sense of any kind of balance. Even if we accept that, for whatever reason, students no longer are protected by the U.S. Constitution while in the parking lot of their school, how can any sort of crime be seen here? This kid didn’t threaten anyone with the gun-resembling toys. He didn’t bring them into the building. He didn’t even leave them in plain sight of other students.

And let me point out one more time, they were toys that looked something like guns, not actual guns.

Daniel Duff, Charles Koch, Charles Scheuble and Vice-President Connie Ruhl, the members of the Bethel Park Board who voted for this expulsion, should immediately resign their positions in shame and remorse for this decision. As they are clearly too tin-eared and half-witted to recognize this, they will instead have to be removed at the end of their terms in office. This is unfortunate, as it will give them in three cases another two years to tremendously complicate the lives of other children and teenagers with their asinine decisions.

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