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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Sep 27, 2012

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Philip N. Elbert, Jeffrey H. Gibson, and Meghan C. Dougherty, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Christian Heyne, William Heyne, and Robin Heyne.

Attorneys 2:

Wm. Michael Safley, Deputy Director of Law; J. Brooks Fox and Christopher M. Lackey, Assistant Metropolitan Attorneys, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education.

Richard L. Colbert and Courtney L. Wilbert, Franklin, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae, Tennessee Education Association.

Randall G. Bennett and Joel H. Moseley, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae, Tennessee School Boards Association.

Charles W. Cagle and Angela C. Sanders, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae, Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents.

Judge(s): KOCH

This appeal involves the scope of the procedural due process rights of a public high school student facing discipline for an infraction of school rules of conduct. After injuring a younger student with his automobile on school property, the student was cited for an infraction of the student conduct rule proscribing reckless endangerment. The principal’s decision to suspend the student for ten days was upheld by a hearing board and a designee of the director of schools, and the school board declined to review the matter. Thereafter, the student and his family filed a petition for common-law writ of certiorari in the Chancery Court for Davidson County seeking judicial review of the disciplinary decision. Following a hearing during which the trial court permitted the student and his family to present evidence regarding allegedly arbitrary, capricious, and illegal conduct by school officials that was not reflected in the record of the disciplinary proceedings, the trial court found that the school officials had violated the student’s procedural due process rights because one official had performed both prosecutorial and decision-making functions and because this official was biased against the student. The trial court also determined that the evidence did not support the conclusion that the student’s conduct amounted to reckless endangerment. Accordingly, the trial court directed the school system to expunge the student’s record and awarded the student and his family $371,845.25 in attorneys’ fees and $25,626.27 in costs. The Board of Education appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s judgments. Heyne v. Metropolitan Nashville Bd. of Pub. Educ., No. M2010-00237-COA-R3-CV, 2011 WL 1744239 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 6, 2011). We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.