Case of A.V.
YELP successfully averted a "zero-tolerance" policy expulsion in favor of a 15-year-old 9th grader. In her previous middle school setting, she was on the principal’s honor roll and considered to be a disciplined, serious student bound for college. Less than two months into her new school setting, A.V. was charged with felonious possession of a weapon on school grounds and placed in expulsion proceedings. However, the weapon had been placed in her backpack, unbeknownst to her and the student responsible for it later removed it from her backpack. Nevertheless, A.V.'s minimal and non-consenting role was viewed at the same level of criminality as that of the student who instigated the event. In her statements to the school administration and police, A.V. was forthright and honest about her role. Nevertheless, because of a "zero tolerance" policy that this school adopted regarding weapons possessions cases, A.V.'s school was bent on making an example of her by according the same weight to her role in the incident. She was sent home and placed in a community day school to await her fate.
YELP and law student Trisha Miller ('04) worked with the family and the student in preparation for the hearing and developed sound legal arguments and bases for future appeals, if necessary. On the morning of the expulsion hearing, the clinic received a telephone call from the school district’s counsel, offering to drop the expulsion charges and to reinstate her at the school or another school of her choice within the district the following semester. The clients immediately accepted this offer. Attorney and students believe that their hard work and excellent preparation of the case—despite being hampered by lack of access to crucial information (such as a police report and witness statements)--may have influenced, at least in part, the school district’s willingness to settle so quickly and without a hearing. As well, the school district may have thought twice about the consequences of its “zero tolerance” policy and the ramifications of punishing those students who come forward and tell the truth.