Supreme Court rules in favor of former student in USC case

Published 10:37 am Friday, August 5, 2016

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled in favor of a former United South Central student who was expelled in April 2014 for having a pocket knife in school.

The expulsion of Alyssa Drescher for the last six weeks of her junior year drew national attention and sparked a legal battle between United South Central and Drescher’s family.

In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the United South Central School Board did not have the statutory authority to expel Drescher for a willful violation of a reasonable school policy because the decision was not supported by substantial evidence.

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School officials found the knife in a random drug search April 15, 2014. Drescher said she accidentally left the knife in her purse, which was in her locker, after a day of cutting hay bales at her boyfriend’s home a few days before.

After the Minnesota Department of Education commissioner affirmed the district’s decision to expel her in July 2014, the expulsion was reversed by the Court of Appeals in July 2015, which ruled she did not willfully violate the district’s weapon policy.

The Court of Appeals also found the evidentiary record did not support the school board’s finding that she willfully engaged in conduct that endangered herself or others.

The district then appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, claiming that there was substantial evidence to warrant her expulsion.

In a decision authored by Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, the court ruled that: “Because the district had a policy prohibiting the possession of a pocket knife on school grounds, the school had a right, under that policy, to punish Alyssa Drescher for her inadvertent possession of the pocketknife. Under the act, however, the district had no authority to dismiss Alyssa Drescher without showing that she intentionally violated the policy.”

The court ruled that because there was no evidence in the record that Drescher intentionally violated the district’s weapon policy, the district’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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