Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Keeton v. Ocean Springs School Board

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

January 31, 2019

CHRISTOPHER BAILEY KEETON, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS NATURAL GUARDIAN AND NEXT FRIEND, ALISON GRAY APPELLANT
v.
OCEAN SPRINGS SCHOOL BOARD APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/18/2017

          JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ROBERT P. KREBS TRIAL JUDGE:

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: G. CHARLES BORDIS IV

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: ALWYN H. LUCKEY

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, C.J., BARNES AND CARLTON, P.JJ.

          GRIFFIS, C.J.

         ¶1. Christopher Bailey Keeton was suspended from Ocean Springs High School for a violation of the school district's alcohol policy. The decision was appealed to the circuit court, and a motion for injunctive relief was filed. The circuit court dismissed the appeal and denied the motion for injunctive relief. We find no error and affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. In 2016, Keeton was an eleventh grader at Ocean Springs High School. In April of 2016, he attended the high school's prom in Biloxi. Keeton and several other students traveled to the prom in a "party bus." Alcohol was consumed on the party bus. After Keeton returned home, he was contacted by the high school's administrator and told to return to the prom. Keeton was then questioned by the administrator and the Biloxi Police Department about suspected alcohol use.

         ¶3. Keeton admitted that he saw other students with alcohol in Gatorade bottles on the party bus. In his signed statement, Keeton admitted that he "drank less than three sips" and that he "just rode here didn't drink here at all, or on the bus at all except for three sips." Keeton stated that several people drank more than the "legal amount." Several other students offered accounts of the evening that were similar to Keeton's account.

         ¶4. The school district has a policy that prohibits alcohol, and it reads:

Any pupil who physically possesses, actually possesses, constructively possesses, uses, consumes, . . . alcohol, beer, or any other intoxicant or liquor . . . while in school, . . . during participation in or attendance at . . . extracurricular activities, . . . events, . . . or other school activities, during travel by the student to and from . . . extracurricular activities . . . events, . . . or other school activities shall be disciplined in accordance herewith as follows:
1. Any pupil who shall actually and/or physically possess alcohol, beer, liquor or any other intoxicant shall be suspended for up to ten (10) days OSS - Out of School Suspension, and shall be recommended for expulsion to the Alternative Education Center for a period of not less than 45 days of school, with consideration being given to the circumstances surrounding each use, including but not limited to the class schedule of the student.
2. Any pupil who shall constructively possess beer, liquor, or any other intoxicant shall be suspended for up to ten (10) days and consideration shall be given to the circumstances surrounding each case, including but not limited to the class schedule of the student and the extent of the student's awareness of the presence of alcohol, beer, liquor or any other intoxicant. Therefore, a student may be recommended for expulsion based upon findings of the school administrators.

         ¶5. The school district has a similar policy for the use or possession of drugs. However, the punishment for the drug policy is more severe-punishment through suspension for a period of not less than thirty-six weeks and expulsion.

         ¶6. The school district also has a policy for "Due Process" and the "Appeals of Suspensions and Expulsions." This policy separates a student's due process rights into two categories.

         ¶7. Class I involves students who are accused of a violation of the drug policy, weapon policy, or who are accused of violence on school property. With a Class I violation, the student has a right to appeal to the school board, and the violator remains expelled or suspended during the appellate process.

         ¶8. Class II involves students who are "suspended and/or expelled for any reason other than a violation of the district's drug policy, weapon's policy or for committing a violent act on educational property." With a Class II violation, the student has a right to appeal first to the "District Discipline Committee" and then to the school board. Unlike a Class I violator, a Class II violator is allowed to return to school during the appeal.

         ¶9. Here, the assistant principal recommended that Keeton receive a ten-day suspension and a forty-five day expulsion to the Alternative Education Center. Keeton and his parents provided notice of their intent to appeal the recommendation. Although Keeton was classified as a Class II violator, the school district treated Keeton as a Class I violator during the appellate process. As a result, Keeton was unable to first appeal to the "District Discipline Committee" and was prohibited from returning to his normal classroom setting.

         ¶10. On May 13, 2016, the school district's Board of Trustees heard Keeton's appeal and accepted the assistant principal's recommendation. Keeton then appealed the decision to the circuit court. Keeton also filed a motion for injunctive relief and requested that his expulsion be postponed during the appellate process in accordance with the school district's policy. The circuit court denied the motion and dismissed Keeton's appeal as moot because Keeton had already graduated from high school. The circuit court determined that no existing case or controversy was pending and found that "[s]ince then[, ] Ke[e]ton served his punishment at the start of the 2016-2017 school year and has since graduated from Ocean Springs High School, making the issue moot. . . . [E]ven if the issue were not moot, the [c]ourt would have found in favor of the Ocean Springs School District." It is from this judgment that Keeton now appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶11. "When this Court reviews a decision by a chancery or circuit court concerning an agency decision, it applies the same standard of review that the lower courts are bound to follow." Hinds Cty. Sch. Dist. Bd. of Trs. v. R.B., 10 So.3d 387, 394 (ΒΆ17) (Miss. 2008). "This Court reviews an administrative agency decision to determine whether the decision (1) was unsupported by substantial evidence, (2) was arbitrary or capricious, (3) was beyond the power of the administrative agency ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.