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Decision Number
Suspension of A.W.
Claudia W.
West Des Moines Community School District
Full Text

The Appellant, Claudia W. ("Claudia"), seeks reversal of a September 5, 2014, decision by the West Des Moines Community School District ("WDCSD") Board ("WDCSD Board") to suspend her son, A.W., from the tenth grade at Valley High School ("VHS") for the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year.The underlying reason for A.W.'s one year suspension from school was that A.W. was involved in four separate incidents of vandalism to VHS during the summer of 2014. The issue on appeal is the harshness and the disparity of the punishment. While both Claudia and Kyle felt that A.W. should be punished for his actions, both felt that the local board's decision was excessive and not in A.W.'s best interest. Claudia believes that a suspension for a semester is a more reasonable punishment.

The Appellants argue that the district failed to consider the educational needs of A.W., gave A.W. a harsher punishment than the other students involved, and the student handbook and board policies were unclear and thus the punishment was unfair to A.W. The District argues that the punishment was not unreasonable and was made in the best interest of education. In reviewing appeals under Iowa Code section 290.1 the State Board has been given broad authority to make decisions that are "just and equitable." Iowa Code ? 290.3 (2013). The standard of review in these cases requires that the State Board affirm the decision of the local board unless the local board decision is "unreasonable and contrary to the best interest of education." Thus, the test is reasonableness.

The Iowa Legislature has conferred broad statutory authority upon local school boards to adopt and enforce its own rules and disciplinary policies. School districts have broad discretion to punish students who break the rules as long as the district follows appropriate due process requirements. An expulsion or a long-term suspension will generally be upheld as long as the student received written notice of the alleged offense; notice of the time, date, and place of the hearing; sufficient time to prepare an adequate defense, to present witnesses, and to cross examine witnesses; notice of individual rights; and if the hearing conducted by the board was free of bias.

While we note that A.W. confessed to his involvement in the vandalism and assisted law enforcement in locating the other student offenders, this does not change A.W.'s conduct. Nor, does the fact that A.W. is a good student, who volunteers in the community. If anything these facts weigh against A.W. A student with A.W.'s grades should have the good sense to not commit these offenses even once, let alone four times. Because we find that A.W. is not similarly-situated, there is no requirement to treat A.W. exactly the same as the other students.We also find the appellant's argument that the board policy was unclear to be unpersuasive. Furthermore, the handbook provided that the administration reserved the right to use discretion in each case.

As long as the punishment of the local board is reasonable, the decision will be upheld. To the board's credit, instead of accepting the administrations recommendation, the board voted to suspend A.W. for a year with the option of A.W. receiving educational services through Four Oaks. This act alone shows a sincere concern for A.W.'s continued educational interest.While we understand that this is not the preferred educational placement for A.W., we also understand that A.W.'s conduct was not the preferred conduct that WDCSD expects of its students.

The decision of West Des Moines Community School District Board made on September 5, 2014 to suspend A.W. from the tenth grade at Valley High School for the remainder of the 2014-2015 school year is hereby AFFIRMED.