Board of Educ. v. McCluskey,
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458 U.S. 966 (1982)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Board of Educ. v. McCluskey, 458 U.S. 966 (1982)
Board of Education of Rogers, Arkansas v. McCluskey
Decided July 2, 1982
458 U.S. 966
Under §§ 9 and 10 of petitioner School Board's rules, the Board has discretion to suspend a high school student for "good cause," which is defined as including "sale, use or possession of alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs." Section 11 of the rules provides for mandatory suspension for the remainder of the semester if a student has on school premises used, sold, or been under the influence or in possession of "narcotics or other hallucinogenics, drugs, or controlled substances" classified as such by an Arkansas statute. That statute specifically exempts alcohol from its coverage of "controlled substances." After a hearing before the Board, respondent, a 10th-grade student, was expelled for the remainder of the semester because he was on school premises while intoxicated. Respondent then sought injunctive relief in Federal District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1976 ed., Supp. IV). While there was conflicting evidence concerning which section of its rules the Board had invoked, the Board's Chairman testified that the Board had suspended students under § 11 for alcohol offenses for the past five years. The District Court concluded that, as a matter of fact, the Board had acted under § 11, that § 11 did not apply to alcohol, and that the Board thus had acted unreasonably and had violated respondent's right to substantive due process, even though the Board had discretion to suspend him under § 10. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: The courts below plainly erred in replacing the Board's construction of § 11 with their own notions under the facts of this case. The Board's interpretation of § 11 is reasonable, since even though alcohol is not a "controlled substance" under § 11, that section also covers "drugs," and alcohol is a "drug." It is reasonable to conclude that § 11 requires suspension for any drug use, including use of alcohol, on school premises, while § 10 permits discretionary suspension for drug use off school premises. In any event, federal courts are not authorized to construe school regulations, Wood v. Strickland, 420 U. S. 308, and thus the Board's interpretation of its regulations controls.
Certiorari granted; 662 F.2d 1263, reversed.