458 U.S. 966 (1982), 81-1577, Board of Education of Rogers, Arkansas v. McCluskey

Docket Nº:No. 81-1577
Citation:458 U.S. 966, 102 S.Ct. 3469, 73 L.Ed.2d 1273
Party Name:Board of Education of Rogers, Arkansas v. McCluskey
Case Date:July 02, 1982
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 966

458 U.S. 966 (1982)

102 S.Ct. 3469, 73 L.Ed.2d 1273

Board of Education of Rogers, Arkansas



No. 81-1577

United States Supreme Court

July 2, 1982




Under §§ 9 and 10 of petitioner School Board's rules, the Board has discretion to suspend a high school student for "good cause," which is defined as including "sale, use or possession of alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs." Section 11 of the rules provides for mandatory suspension for the remainder of the semester if a student has on school premises used, sold, or been under the influence or in possession of "narcotics or other hallucinogenics, drugs, or controlled substances" classified as such by an Arkansas statute. That statute specifically exempts alcohol from its coverage of "controlled substances." After a hearing before the Board, respondent, a 10th-grade student, was expelled for the remainder of the semester because he was on school premises while intoxicated. Respondent then sought injunctive relief in Federal District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1976 ed., Supp. IV). While there was conflicting evidence concerning which section of its rules the Board had invoked, the Board's Chairman testified that the Board had suspended students under § 11 for alcohol offenses for the past five years. The District Court concluded that, as a matter of fact, the Board had acted under § 11, that § 11 did not apply to alcohol, and that the Board thus had acted unreasonably and had violated respondent's right to substantive due process, even though the Board had discretion to suspend him under § 10. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The courts below plainly erred in replacing the Board's construction of § 11 with their own notions under the facts of this case. The Board's interpretation of § 11 is reasonable, since even though alcohol is not a "controlled substance" under § 11, that section also covers "drugs," and alcohol is a "drug." It is reasonable to conclude that § 11 requires suspension for any drug use, including use of alcohol, on school premises, while § 10 permits discretionary suspension for drug use off school premises. In any event, federal courts are not authorized to construe school regulations, Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308, and thus the Board's interpretation of its regulations controls.

Certiorari granted; 662 F.2d 1263, reversed.

Page 967

Per curiam opinion.


Respondent, a 10th-grade student in the Rogers, Ark., School District, left school on October 21, 1980, after the first period without permission, and, with four other students, consumed alcohol and became intoxicated. When he returned to school later that day to go on a band trip, he was notified that he was suspended from school. His parents were notified the next day that their son had been suspended pending a hearing before the Rogers School Board; a hearing was scheduled for October 29. At the hearing before the Board, none of the five students denied that they had been drinking, and the Board voted to expel all five for the remainder of the semester.

Respondent immediately sought injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1976 ed., Supp. IV), and the case was heard by the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas on December 4. The District Court decided that the School Board had violated respondent's right to substantive due process, and ordered that he be granted credit for the semester during which he was suspended and that all references to his suspension be expunged from his school records.

The District Court's action was based on its interpretation of the School Board's rules and its conclusions concerning which rules the Board invoked in suspending respondent. There is no doubt that the Board had the authority to suspend respondent under §§ 9 and 10 of its written Policies on Pupil Suspension. Section 9 provides that the Board may suspend or expel any student "for good cause."...

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