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B.O.A. v. U.S.D. 480 Board of Education

Court of Appeals of Kansas

March 15, 2019

B.O.A., a Minor, By and Through L.O., Next Friend, Appellee,
v.
U.S.D. 480 Board of Education, Appellant.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1. A district court has jurisdiction to review and modify a school board's decision under K.S.A. 60-2101(d).

         2. When an appeal is taken under K.S.A. 60-2101(d), the district court may not substitute its judgment for that of the political or taxing subdivision or agency and the court's scope of review is limited to deciding whether the board's decision was within the scope of its authority; its decision was substantially supported by the evidence; and it did not act fraudulently, arbitrarily, or capriciously.

         3. An appellate court exercises the same statutorily limited review of a political or taxing subdivision action as the district court.

          Appeal from Seward District Court; Bradley E. Ambrosier, judge. Opinion filed March 15, 2019. Affirmed.

          Lane L. Frymire and Richard R. Yoxall, of Yoxall, Antrim, Foreman & Frymire, LLP, of Liberal, for appellant.

          Kelly Premer Chavez, of Tahirkheli & Premer-Chavez Law Office, LLC, of Liberal, for appellee.

          Before Gardner, P.J., Hill and Schroeder, JJ.

          HILL, J.

         Good government requires political and taxing subdivisions to give reasons for imposing penalties such as expulsion from public schools. In this appeal of a student's expulsion, the U.S.D. 480 Board of Education failed to give any reason why it increased the length of that student's expulsion to the statutory maximum when it reviewed the decision of the school superintendent. When the student appealed to the district court, it held that the Board's action of increasing the length of this student's expulsion was arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable. The court then modified the Board's order by reducing the term of the student's expulsion to the length suggested by the superintendent of schools. Finding no error, we affirm.

         To aid the understanding of the facts, we offer a brief outline of the procedures used to expel this public school student. Review of this expulsion extended through several layers. First, the student's school principal made her recommendation. This was followed by a formal hearing before a school district hearing officer. After that, the school district superintendent reviewed the matter. And, finally, the Board of Education reviewed the superintendent's findings and recommendations and considered whether to expel the student and if so, for how long. This student, aggrieved by this process, sought review of the school district's actions by the district court under K.S.A. 60-2101(d). Here is what happened.

          A middle school reacted to threats posted on social media.

         In January 2018, a student at the Eisenhower Middle School in U.S.D. 480 alerted Principal Randi Jones that posts on social media were threatening a school shooting. Screen shots of the posted threats showed that the shooting was to occur on Wednesday, January 17.

         School officials reported the threats to the Liberal Police Department for investigation. The police investigation determined that B.O.A. was responsible for posting at least one of the threats. B.O.A. was enrolled as a seventh grader at the school. He acknowledged to the police that one of the threatening posts was his by placing a checkmark by it and writing his name. That post stated, "Lets [sic] start a school shooting starting with EMS."

         When she learned that the police believed B.O.A. was responsible for one of the threats, Principal Jones told him and his mother that she had placed him on an immediate 10-day school suspension. Later, while suspended from school, B.O.A. wrote a letter of apology to the principal and the school district. In it he stated that he intended the post as a joke, but that it went too far. He asked for forgiveness and the opportunity to continue going to school.

         The principal then notified the student and his parents that she proposed a 186-day expulsion for B.O.A. This notice alleged that his conduct violated several statutory provisions which called for his expulsion. The notice also told him that he was entitled to a formal hearing. B.O.A. requested a formal hearing.

         His formal hearing was held by Michael Stovall, Director of District Systems for the school district. At the hearing, Principal Jones, the assistant principal, B.O.A., and his parents attended. Both of B.O.A.'s parents spoke. They both acknowledged "he did do wrong," but that he was a good kid who behaves at home, and was otherwise responsible. They described his general demeanor as shy, and stated ...


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