High School Student’s Parents Sue Because School Briefly Suspended Student for Drinking Alcohol on School-Sponsored International Trip

The case is Sabol v. Walter Payton College Preparatory High School (N.D. Ill. Apr. 12, 2011, just posted on Westlaw in the last few days); the plaintiffs argued the suspension violated substantive due process, procedural due process, the Fourth Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause, and constituted abuse of discretion and intentional infliction of emotional distress under state law; not so, says the district court (correctly, I think). Here’s the court’s conclusion:

From any objective standard, Sabol–Jones got off light for her deliberate infraction of the no-alcohol rule despite her having signed a written commitment not to do so. In candor, this lawsuit should never have been brought, and Sabol–Jones, her parents and their lawyer should have known as much.

There is no genuine issue of material fact here, and defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted as to all claims, and Sabol–Jones’ motion is denied. This action is thus dismissed in its entirety.

This ordeal, which began before Sabol–Jones’ senior year of high school, is, as they say, ancient history. [Footnote: “Ordeal” is used advisedly here — under the circumstances, defendants’ involvement in having to defend this action at substantial expense is deserving of that label, perhaps even more than Sabol–Jones’ total experience.] Sabol–Jones is now attending Georgetown University on a full scholarship, and her counsel’s overly dramatic doomsday prediction about the effect of the suspension on her “entire life” has proved to be baseless (as any objective observer could have predicted).

Note also the magnitude of the punishment: “Sabol–Jones’ [ten-day] suspension was delayed and split into two five-day periods to accommodate her college interview schedule and the start of classes. [UPDATE: Footnote: Although Sabol-Jones was told that the School would not seek her expulsion, she twice received notices indicating that expulsion hearings were to proceed. Defendants acknowledge that those notices were sent in error and that no hearing date had ever been set for expulsion proceedings.] She served between two and three days of her ten-day suspension before filing for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction in the Circuit Court of Cook County. That court stayed the suspension. Sabol–Jones’ similarly charged classmates served their full ten-day suspensions, participated in expulsion proceedings and attended drug and alcohol seminars. Due to the stay of her suspension pending the resolution of this lawsuit, Sabol–Jones did none of those things.”

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