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Decision Number
Heather Kramme
David Kramme
Rockwell City-Litton Community School District
Full Text

Heather is a good student involved in the extracurricular activities of speech and drama; band and golf. Because of her involvement in these activities, Heather is subject to the "good conduct code".The conduct code contains the minimum standards affecting all extracurricular activities and remains in effect for "a 365-day-year-round period of time."

At approximately 10:05 p.m. on Saturday, January 27, 1996, Mr. Dennis Simon, a high school instructor, was waiting in the check-out line behind Heather Kramme at the Casey's General Store in Rockwell City, Iowa. He saw Heather purchase a smokeless tobacco product commonly referred as "Skoal" or "Redman." Mr. Simon reported this to High School Principal Randy Martin. Principal Martin advised Heather's parents in writing, on Febru-ary 1, 1996, that in his opinion, Heather's behavior violated the conduct code. Because of her infraction of the good conduct policy, Heather was informed that she would be ineligible to represent the District in these activities from February 1, 1996, through April 10, 1996.

The important question concerns whether there is a "nexus" between the prohibited conduct and its effect on the operation and management of the school; not whether the activity is illegal. The rule violation occurred (1) during the scheduled season of the student's proposed extracurricular activity; (2) the prohibited activity applied only to those students who elected to exercise the privilege of extracurricular participation; (3) the student admitted the prohibited conduct; (4) the prohibited conduct involved conduct which is universally recognized as unhealthy and unwholesome to the extent that the condoning of such conduct would have a direct effect upon efficient and meaningful development of student character and example to younger students.For these reasons, we are compelled to conclude that the rule prohibiting the purchase or possession of tobacco by Appellant's daughter on a weekend, off school premises, is valid in its scope.

The second principle that must be addressed in determining the validity of a good conduct rule is its "reasonableness." Bunger at 564. More specifically, the inquiry in this case is whether the punishment fits the crime. While our intention is not to undermine the authority the School Board to establish good conduct rules, we take issue with the harshness of the penalties imposed by this policy. The first of-fense "consequence" suffered by this student for purchasing a tobacco product is 70 days or 10 weeks of ineligibility. While good conduct rules generally have an escalating level of punish-ment for repeat offenders, this policy contains one of the long-est periods of ineligibility for a first offense that the State Board has seen. As the State Board has previously said, "[t]his is the pitfall of having predetermined punishments. It means that everyone committing a violation will be treated the same -- a worthy goal -- but it does not take into consideration extenuating circumstances, contrition, mistake, or the subtle factual differences in every case."

The finding of "reasonableness" is difficult to determine in the abstract. Ten weeks may not be unreasonable in every case, but under these facts, we find that it is. Heather is being deprived of extra-curricular activities that impact on her academ-ic oppor-tunities for college, such as speech and music. As of March 13, 1996, the date of this hearing, Heather has served six weeks of ineligibil-ity and has been deprived of participation in a school play and a major speech contest. Under these circum-stances, we find it unreasonable to require another four weeks of ineligibility.

of ineligibility for a first offense of the District's good conduct policy is hereby affirmed in part and reversed in part. The decision to find Heather Kramme in violation of the good conduct policy is recommended for affirmance; but the first offense "consequence" is recommended for reversal. Any evidence or documentation of the incident or the sanctions imposed should be expunged from Heather Kramme's school records.