Posts tagged with "statutory authority"

Categories of Student Misbehavior Qualifying for Suspension

Categorizing Misbehavior

When a student misbehaves at school, he or she may be punished with a suspension in one of three categories: the behavior

  1. violated a publicized school policy;
  2. seriously disrupted the educational process; or
  3. endangered persons or property.[1]

As a parent, it is important that you understand what conduct qualifies as prohibited conduct, and in some instances you may be able to contest the characterization.

Violation of Publicized School Policy

School boards have the statutory authority to draft disciplinary rules and policies that apply to student conduct within their district. To that end, they utilize student handbooks, which are distributed to each child at the beginning of the school year, that specifically list conduct that is prohibited. Therefore, if and when a student engages in that conduct, school administrators may issue a suspension.

The rules and guidelines found in student handbooks must be clear and understandable so as to give students and parents reasonable notice of prohibited conduct.[2] Furthermore, the rules must not be completely arbitrary: rather, there must be some relationship between the rules and their intended purposes. Admittedly, this is not a difficult standard to meet.

If you are a parent and your child is suspended under this category, you should first review the school handbook to establish whether or not your child actually violated an articulated disciplinary rule. “You will likely be able to make a stronger case for your child during suspension hearings… if you can show that his or her conduct is neither prohibited by the school nor violates any school rules.”[3]

Serious Disruption of the Educational Process

To qualify for this category, a student’s behavior must interfere with the operation of a class, study hall, library, or any meeting that involves student or staff.[4] Even non-serious disruptions that are recurrent or cumulative qualify, though administrators will consider the frequency, number, and severity of these occurrences.[5]

Endangerment of Persons or Property

Finally, “endangerment of persons or property” constitutes conduct that exposes a student to injury, risk, or a harmful situation.[6] A number of student behaviors would fall under this category, including but not limited to:

  • Fighting and bullying
  • Possession of firearms or controlled substances
  • Damage to personal or school property

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Because of the potentially adverse and significant impact a suspension or expulsion can have on a student’s future, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced school law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport.

Should you have any questions regarding school discipline or other education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport, Connecticut by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at

[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233c.

[2] Crossen v. Fatsi, 309 F. Supp. 114 (D. Conn. 1970).

[3] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at pp.42.

[4] “Guidelines for In-School and Out-of-School Suspensions,” by the Connecticut State Department of Education, at pp.9.

[5] Id.

[6] Id. at 10.

Parental Consequences for Chronically Truant Schoolchildren

Recent studies[1]highlight the issue of chronic truancy in recent years: as one journalist quipped, “In order for young people to do better in school, it helps if they actually are in school.”[2]School districts are particularly divergent in how to reduce truancy rates. Some have elected to give away gift cards (Dallas, Cincinatti), iPads (DeSoto, Texas), major league baseball tickets (Kansas City, Houston), and even cars (Dallas-Fort Worth area).[3]Other school districts, however, seek to hit parents and students where it really hurts: their wallets and through court involvement.

Punishments for Chronic Truancy

One of my previous posts highlighted the prevalence of chronic truancy in the New Britain public school system. The newly-hired superintendent of schools, Kelt Cooper, has proposed “monetary penalties to get the job [of ending high truancy rates] done. A plan to fine students to the tune of $75 per skipped school day is now being considered by New Britain council members.”[4]This practice is used both nationwide, such as in Los Angeles ($20 per offense)[5]and the State of Ohio (up to $500, seventy hours community service, or both).[6]

One school district had such a severe fine – $300 per violation – which led to $27,000 owed by one parent alone (and $17,000 by his child), prompting a federal lawsuit.[7]Other school districts have implemented even more drastic measures. One California mother was recently sentenced to 180 days in jail, after repeated warnings from the school district about her children’s combined absence rate in excess of 10% of the school year.[8]Earlier this year, a Texas honor roll student “spent 24 hours in jail… for missing too much school.”[9]

Parental Obligation in Connecticut

In Connecticut, parents have the legal obligation to make sure that their children either attend a public school or receive comparable instruction elsewhere. In addition, it is the parent’s responsibility “to contact the school office when their child is absent from school and provide a reason for the absence if they want the absence to be excused.”[10]

However, once a child is identified as being truant, the school district will attempt to meet with the parent to determine the cause of the truancy. However, if the parent either fails to attend this meeting or is otherwise uncooperative, the school district has the statutory authority to seek Superior Court involvement and refer the family as one with service needs.[11]In addition, the school district may impose a $25 fine for each school day missed by the student.[12]

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Taking an active role in ensuring your child’s regular school attendance is not only required by law, but also necessary to maximize your child’s educational and occupational opportunities. If you have any questions regarding truancy, school discipline, or other education law matters, it is imperative that you seek counsel with an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at Maya Murphy, P.C. in Westport, CT at (203) 221-3100 or at

[1]See, e.g., “New Britain Schools Targeting Kindergarten Truants,” by the Associated Press. September 10, 2012:,0,6088612.story; and “‘Chronically Absent’ Students Skew School Data, Study Finds, Citing Parents’ Role,” by Richard Pérez-Peña. May 17, 2012:

[2]“Should Kids Be Fined If They Skip School?” by Brad Tuttle. August 23, 2012:

[3]“Students Snag Free Sneakers, iPads, Gift Cards, Cars – Just for Showing Up at School,” by Brad Tuttle. August 20, 2012:

[4]See Footnote 2.

[5]“Los Angeles ends big fines, limits enforcement of truancy law,” by Susan Ferriss. February 22, 2012:

[6]“Parents Must Take Responsibility for Truant Students” Q&A, by the Ohio State Bar Association. [7]“PA School District Sued Over Truancy Fines,” by Marc Levy. January 20, 2011:,0,4679930.story

[8]“California mom Lorraine Cuevas gets 180 days in jail for not sending kids to school,” by Michael Walsh. October 3, 2012:

[9]“Texas honor student thrown in jail for missing school,” by the New York Daily News. May 26, 2012:

[11]Connecticut General Statutes § 46b-149(a).

[12]Connecticut General Statutes § 10-185.

Plaintiff’s Lawsuit Against Commissioner of Department of Motor Vehicles Barred by State’s Sovereign Immunity; Plaintiff Failed to Prove Any Exceptions Applied

In a criminal law matter, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport dismissed a plaintiff’s action against the defendant Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), because she was barred under sovereign immunity doctrine from bringing suit.

Case Background

This case arose from an incident that occurred on or about July 11, 2006. The plaintiff was arrested for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence (OMVUI) of alcohol in violation of General Statutes § 14-227a, and she refused to submit to an alcohol chemical test. She pled guilty to this charge, and in light of two previous OMVUI convictions, her license was suspended for a year and she would be required to install an interlocking ignition device (IID) in her vehicle.

The plaintiff received a revised suspension notice from the DMV stating her license would instead be suspended for three years because of her refusal to submit to the chemical test. In addition, the plaintiff would not be able to make use of the IID. See General Statutes § 14-227b(i)(3)(C).

The plaintiff filed motions with the court, asking it to enjoin the defendant from suspending her license beyond the initial one-year period. The plaintiff argued that the defendant exceeded his statutory authority and, as such, violated her constitutional rights. In its motion to dismiss, the defendant countered that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction because of the state’s sovereign immunity. He pointed out that the plaintiff did not seek declaratory or injunctive relief “based on a substantial claim that the state or its officials have violated [her] constitutional rights or that the state or its officials have acted in excess of their statutory authority.”

Sovereign Immunity Doctrine 

Sovereign immunity doctrine holds that a State cannot be sued unless it authorizes or consents to suit. There are only three statutory exceptions to this rule: waiver, violation of a plaintiff’s constitutional right by a state official, and action in excess of a state official’s statutory authority which violates a plaintiff’s right. If the second exception is asserted, State action will survive strict scrutiny analysis only if it is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.

In this case, the Superior Court found “little dispute” that highway safety is a compelling state interest and that the increased suspension and IID refusal was “both reasonable and necessary to achieve the goal of protecting the public safety.” Therefore, the Court found that the plaintiff’s constitutional rights were not violated.

Regarding the third exception, the DMV Commissioner has very broad discretion “to oversee and control the operation of motor vehicles generally.” Public policy concerns underpinning our motor vehicle laws center on the protection of the lives and property of Connecticut’s citizens. The legislature has also recognized the heavy burden placed on those convicted of OMVUI “in a society dependent on automotive transportation.” The use of IIDs helps alleviate these burdens, but it is a privilege of limited application, which does not encompass suspensions based on refusing to submit to an alcohol chemical test.

In this case, the Superior Court found that the defendant “clearly” had statutory authority to impose the three-year suspension and refused the plaintiff’s request to use an IID. Therefore, because the plaintiff failed to establish the applicability of either exception, the Superior Court held her action was barred by the State’s sovereign immunity.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

When faced with a charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (a.k.a. driving under the influence) or license suspension, an individual is best served by consulting with an experienced criminal law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at