Cathe A. v. Doddridge County Bd. of Educ

In Cathe A. v. Doddridge County Bd. of Educ., 200 W. Va. 521, 490 S.E. 2d 340 (W. Va. 1997), the court was called on to consider the West Virginia Productive and Safe Schools Act, which required expulsion for bringing a weapon to school. The court first noted that in West Virginia education is a fundamental right and therefore the strict scrutiny test must be applied. Id., at 346-47. The court then noted that the need for a safe and secure environment is implicit in the guarantee of a thorough and efficient system of schools, and that the legislature was entitled to believe that only a 12-month expulsion would serve as an effective deterrent to further that important goal. Id., at 348. Thus, the court concluded that the act requiring expulsion for weapons violations was not facially unconstitutional. However, following its discussion of the facial constitutionality of the act, the court sought to determine whether an alternate education must be provided and conducted an "as applied" analysis in light of two West Virginia policies. The first policy was that an alternate education would be provided to an expelled student only if that student's parents paid for it. The court found that this policy was not narrowly tailored. Id., at 349. In making this finding the court found that a child's fundamental right to an education, including the right to be provided with educational opportunities and services, which can be limited by narrowly tailored restrictions necessary to achieve a compelling state interest, cannot be conditioned on the child's or parent's ability or willingness to reimburse the state. Id., at 349. The second policy was a state superintendent policy mandating that a child who was removed by the act was not entitled to any state-funded instruction during the pendency of their expulsion. Id., at 350. The court stated: "A policy to the effect that the State has no responsibility to provide any state-funded educational opportunities and services to any children who are expelled under the Productive and Safe Schools Act, W. Va. Code, 18A-5-1a(g) 1995 is constitutionally infirm because the State has not shown that applying such a limitation to all such children under all circumstances is reasonably necessary and narrowly tailored to further the compelling state interest in safe and secure schools." (Id., at 350.)