- by Brian S. Batterton
Legal & Liability Risk Management Institute | School Resources & Training Institute
The following article is in response to a question posed in the PATC law enforcement E-Newsletter as part of the "Legal Questions Answered" section.
Legal Question: I'm an SRO. One of my middle school students brought a gun to school and was planning to run away with girlfriend after school. The Girlfriend did not know about gun but assisted in planning the running away. Does school have authority to discipline girlfriend? We wanted her to assist in teaching younger kids (4th grade) on the importance of helping friends out the right way, but her parents strongly oppose this and have told the principal to basically leave their daughter alone.
The school can certainly discipline the girlfriend for whatever school rules she violated in planning and/or assisting in the runaway. However, if the runaway plan was totally unrelated to school and contrived off-campus and would not have, in and of itself, adversely affected the educational environment or the health or safety of any of the students, then the girlfriend most likely cannot be disciplined. Certainly the firearm at the school affects the safety of the students and disrupts the educational environment; however, if, as the question states, the girlfriend had no knowledge about the involvement with the firearm, it would difficult to discipline her for the gun.
As to forcing her to lecture younger children regarding the importance of helping friends find the “right way,” I would say that it cannot be done over the objection of the parents. States afford parents great control, as is appropriate, over their children. Therefore, if they object, it is advisable to not force the child to do so.