Diana Newmark Examines School Disciplinary Hearings and Due Process

Diana Newmark (’13), Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Education Advocacy Clinic at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, was consulted by azcentral.com / The Arizona Republic to discuss how school disciplinary hearings differ from court proceedings in the wake of a 12 year old boy’s extended suspension over perceived threats of gun violence at school (“How an Arizona School’s Response to a Perceived Gun Threat Upended a 12-Year-Old’s Life,” Apr. 16). Students facing suspension are entitled to due process, “But what that actually means isn’t always clear,” Diana explained. While Arizona law does not mandate many requirements, students in Arizona are allowed to be represented by counsel at disciplinary hearings. However, “It’s really enormously difficult for families to find an attorney who’s available at short notice,” Diana said. She also discussed how school disciplinary hearings lack aspects of due process that are typical of court proceedings, pointing to the reliance on hearsay. “There might not actually be a witness to the events at the hearing who saw what happened or knew directly what happened,” and as the schools typically don’t identify these witnesses, “A student can’t challenge, necessarily … if they don't even know who it is who’s making an accusation,” Diana said. She concluded, “Schools are going to take potential threats of violence seriously. . . . They might respond with police presence or other security. And so, given this, schools might really be tempted to discipline a student who makes that kind of threatening statement even if there’s no actual intent to harm anyone.”