Supreme Court Upholds Suspension of High School Student

September 27, 2012

The Tennessee Supreme Court has upheld a ten-day suspension of a student at Hillsboro High School in Nashville.

On September 5, 2008, Christian Heyne, a senior and captain of the football team, injured another student when he pinned the student’s foot under one of the wheels of his car. The principal of Hillsboro High School conducted an investigation and determined that Mr. Heyne had violated the school rule prohibiting “reckless endangerment.” Accordingly, the principal suspended Mr. Heyne for ten days and placed him on probation for the rest of the school year. The principal’s decision was reviewed and upheld by a disciplinary board, a representative of the director of schools, and the school board.

Mr. Heyne and his parents filed suit challenging the suspension in the Chancery Court for Davidson County. They argued that the disciplinary procedure violated Mr. Heyne’s due process right to a fair and unbiased hearing. The chancery court agreed and held that the disciplinary process has been tainted by bias and procedural unfairness and the suspension was based on insufficient evidence.

The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and upheld Mr. Heyne’s suspension and probation. Mr. Heyne and his parents appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals. In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court determined that the disciplinary proceedings were not unfair and that the Heynes had failed to prove that the school officials were biased against Mr. Heyne. The Court also found that the evidence supported the school officials’ decision that Mr. Heyne had violated the rule prohibiting reckless endangerment and that he should be suspended for ten days.

To read the Christian Heyne v. Metropolitan Nashville Board of Education opinion, authored by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., visit http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/heynec_opn.pdf.