Schooling Not Required, U.S. Court Rules
Gongwer News Service, January 24, 2005
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Although Michigan's constitution
guarantees the right to a free public elementary and secondary
education, neither it nor state law provides a right to
alternative education for those older than the drop-out age of
16, a panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
ruled Monday in a case arising from the notorious 2000 murder of
a New Baltimore teen pizza worker.
The court rejected claims brought
by a high school drop-out who was barred from the Anchor Bay
School District's Skill Quest program after his arrest on
charges of murdering Justin Mello. The charges against Matthew
Daniels were quickly dismissed for lack of evidence and charges
against two friends were eventually dropped when two men
confessed to the crime.
Mr. Daniels, now 21 and on
probation on a drug possession crime, claimed the district
denied him due process in terminating his participation in the
Skill Quest program and refusing to let him re-enroll when he
was released by police.
The 6th Circuit Court of
Appeals said Mr. Daniels had an unquestioned right to attend
high school, though he forfeited that when he dropped out, and
noted school districts are not required to provide alternative
education for those older than 16 who do not have a high school
And while districts such as Anchor
Bay which do create alternative programs do create an
entitlement - similar to interscholastic sports - that may not
be withdrawn without due process, the court added Mr. Daniels
could not establish a property claim in that schooling.
The Anchor Bay program, the court
said, had two key conditions: sole discretion by the
superintendent on who may be admitted and a requirement students
abide by program policies including attendance where failure to
comply results in automatic loss of credit.
"Because Daniels cannot demonstrate
any property right to alternative education in the Skill Quest
program, he cannot demonstrate that Anchor Bay or Woodside
denied him due process by enforcing the program's automatic loss
of credit resulting from his absence from class during his
pre-trial detention, or by refusing to permit him to re-enroll
after his release from detention," wrote Judge Alice Batchelor,
in an opinion signed by Judges David Nelson and Eugene Siler Jr.
(Daniels v. Woodside).
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