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Decision Number
Joshua James Hakes, Aaron James Aeschliman & Mathew S. Petersen
Jeffrey & Laura Hakes, et al.
Dallas Center-Grimes Community School District
Full Text

On that evening an AAU-type of basketball game was being held at the high school.At the conclusion of the game, Ms. White and her children returned to her car, which was parked north of the industrial arts building at the high school. In the darkness, she noticed that the rear view mirror on the passenger side of the vehicle had been kicked or bumped off, leaving it dangling by a couple of wires. She didn't notice that her brand-new, red Dodge Neon had been dented extensively on the hood, roof and trunk until she reached her home in Urbandale, Iowa. As she drove into her garage, her husband came out and was the first to notice the damage to her car. The color photographs introduced at the appeal hearing revealed extensive damage, almost like the car had been rolled. It was later determined that the cost to repair the damaged vehicle was in excess of $3,000.

Principal Adkins testified that he learned about the incident on Sunday night, March 10, 1996. Principal Adkins informed the Superintendent and they began an investigation. On the morning of Wednesday, March 13, 1996, Principal Adkins contacted the parents of the students accused. He informed the parents that an interview had been set for that afternoon with Larry Sadler of the Dallas Center-Grimes Police Department for each of their sons. The facts are disputed about whether the parents were also instructed that they could not talk to their children until after that interview. In any event, all three parents promptly went to the school to speak with their children. Upon question-ing, each student admitted being involved in the vandalism. The first notice of the sanction which the administrators intended to impose upon the three students was revealed on Friday, March 15, 1996.

Agreement for Consequences," presented to all three students and their parents, imposed the following discipline: 1. Three days of suspension from school. Those days being March 26, 27, and 28. 2.All my work must be made up and, on my return, turned in. That work shall receive no more than 50% credit (student handbook, p. 20). 3.I will not be allowed to attend prom, the academy awards, or the steak fry. 4. I shall be mentored by a staff member for the rest of the 1995-96 school year. In addition, the agreement required the student, and his parents, to chose from one of the following two additional disciplinary actions: 1. Be suspended from school for an additional seven (7) days by Dr. Bishop. Those days being March 29, April 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8. All of my homework must be made up and, upon my return, be turned in and that work shall receive no more than 50% credit (student handbook, p. 20). Meet with the director of any spring activity in which I am involved and receive the consequences as outlined in Board Policy on pages 14 and 15 of the student handbook. 2. Agree not to enter any school grounds prior to 7:45 a.m. and to leave the school grounds by 3:15 p.m. unless under the direct supervision of a staff member. This shall start on March 25 and end on June 5, 1996. First of all, the parents do not feel that the reduction of grades is an appropriate method of discipline. In support of this propos-ition, they cite Board Policy 501-R(V) which states: Reduction of grades shall not be used as a disciplinary measure against a student because of absence from school.Secondly, the parents feel that the length of time for which the students were banned from participation in extracurricular activities is in violation of the Good Conduct Policy laid out in the Student Handbook.

At all times material to this appeal, Board Policy 501-R was in effect and it was binding upon the Board of Directors. Because of that alone, Options A and B were invalid disciplinary actions because they were in violation of existing Board policy. Appel-lee's arguments to the contrary are without merit. The first argument is that the policy does not define "suspension" as an absence, so the prohibition for grade reduction as discipline because of "absence," does not apply to a suspension. Even if that argument logically followed, it would not hold up in the face of State Board precedent. The State Board policy addressing the use of grade reduction sanctions for non-academic misbe-havior has been applied in a line of decisions dealing with penalties for absences from school. In re Korene Merk, 5 D.o.E. App. Dec. 270 (1987), the State Board condemned the practice of lowering student grades for non-academic infractions.

The students had already served most of their penalty before this matter could be heard on appeal. The parents were aware of that fact. They urged on appeal that the State Board reverse and invalidate any policy or guideline used by the District Board which penalizes students for non-academic offenses by reducing their grades. In light of this, we reverse the District Board's decision insofar as it penalizes the students 50% of their daily grade for the three days in which they served their suspensions. The Administration is directed to review the evidence it submitted to the State Board and adjust the grades of these students accordingly. For the record, the discipline taken by the District Board in excess of the discipline that could be taken under its policies is invalidated.

That the decision of the Dallas Center-Grimes Community School District's Board of Directors made on April 17, 1996, was reversed.