The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Saturday, March 2, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Is our children learning?: Suspended students need an alternative education

N.C. children have a right to an education. That right shouldn’t be infringed, even if a student is being disciplined.

On Monday, the N.C. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case King v. Beaufort County Board of Education.

Viktoria King was suspended from Southside High School in Beaufort County starting on Jan. 24, 2008, after she was involved in a fight. Her principal recommended that she be suspended for the remainder of the year.

She wasn’t given an opportunity for an alternative education during her suspension. King is claiming this violated her right to an education.

The case has made its way through the state court system. A trial court sided with the school board, as did the majority in the N.C. Court of Appeals.

But Judge Martha Geer wrote a dissenting opinion, saying she thinks the majority erred in using a 1987 Court of Appeals ruling as the foundation for their decision.

She thinks the court should have used the 1997 ruling Leandro v. State in its ruling and that, “While for adults, five months might fly by, five months in the education of a child is not a minor deprivation.” Such a suspension, she wrote, does in fact violate a student’s right to an education.

We agree with her dissent.

Five months — about a semester — is enough to significantly set back any high school student in the pursuit of a degree. King was a sophomore in high school when she was suspended.

It’s important that schools are able to maintain control over students and are able to suspend them. But schools need to provide an alternative education if a student is suspended for a long period of time.

The King case highlights what we believe is a flaw in the N.C. General Statues. The law doesn’t require school boards to provide an alternate education during long-term suspension.

That should change.

If the N.C. Supreme Court rules in favor of the school board, the N.C. General Assembly should consider revising this statute.

It needs to mandate that students be provided with an alternative education if they’re suspended for a longer period of time. The current law gives too much leeway for school boards to deny students their right to an education.

An education is a fundamental state service that shouldn’t be denied to any child, even those who are being disciplined.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.