Court Bans Violent Student with Disabilities from School

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan recently granted a temporary restraining order banning a special education student from en­tering school grounds pending the outcome of further Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) team meetings based on the student’s violent outbursts. Wayne-Westland Community Schs v VS, Docket No. 14-13904 (ED MI, 2014).

V.S., a 6-foot tall and 250-pound teenager, repeatedly threatened and attacked students and staff members. V.S. spit at and kicked staff members who tried to restrain him, threatened to stab staff members with a pen, and punched a student and the principal. V.S. also threatened to rape a female staff member and punched another staff member in the face. Due to these incidents, V.S.’s IEP team changed his educa­tional placement to reduce his hours of attendance to one hour per day. When V.S. returned to school, how­ever, he attacked a security liaison officer. After he was ordered to leave the school building, V.S. tried to force his way back into the building, causing a lockdown.

V.S.’s violent behavior continued the next school year. V.S. threatened to bring guns to school to kill staff members, made racist comments toward African-American staff members, and punched another staff member in the face.

The district sought a temporary restraining order banning V.S. from school, arguing that it did not have the resources or facilities available to properly and safely address V.S.’s educational needs in his present educational placement. The court noted that it may, in appropriate cases, temporarily enjoin a dangerous student with a disability from attending school when the student poses an immediate threat to the safety of others. This action is typically called a Honig injunc­tion after the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Honig v Doe.

The court immediately granted the district’s request for a temporary restraining order banning V.S. from school. The court reasoned that the district was likely to ultimately succeed in its claim for a perma­nent order preventing V.S. from attending school pending the outcome of further IEP team meetings regarding his educational placement.

The court also noted that V.S.’s behavior, as described by the district, established that he was a dangerous student, his current educational placement posed an immediate threat to staff and student safety, and there was a high risk of imminent and irreparable harm if the court did not restrain V.S.’s contact with the school.

Importantly, the court based its decision on the fact that:

V.S. will suffer no harm as a result of temporarily continuing his education through the online facilities of the Michigan Virtual Academy program, with the assis­tance, as needed, of a staff member assigned by [the school] to help him and answer any questions he may have by telephone or email.

Therefore, the court ordered the district to continue providing V.S. online programming and ac­cess to the district’s curriculum.  The court deter­mined that if a student with disabilities poses a threat to school safety, the student could be temporarily enjoined from attending school.

School officials are reminded that such restraining orders are not commonly granted.  Absent such an order, when suspending or expelling a student for more than 10 consecutive days or where a pattern of suspensions amounts to 10 days or more, the district must hold a manifestation determination review to determine if the student’s misconduct was a manifes­tation of the student’s disability and must provide the student additional procedural protections required by state and federal law.