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MN high court to hear arguments in case of girl who accidentally brought knife to school


The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday about a school's zero tolerance policy following the overturned expulsion of a teenager who accidentally brought a pocketknife to school.

The court's decision on whether the student's expulsion was justified could influence suspension and expulsion policies at schools statewide, the Mankato Free Press reports.

The case involves Alyssa Drescher, who was expelled from United South Central in Wells in April 2014. Officials found a knife in the then-junior's locker during a random school-wide search.

The school board ruled she violated the district's policy, which outlaws weapons of any kind at school.

Drescher's family maintained she had forgotten to take the three-inch pocket knife out of her purse after using it to cut hay bales at her boyfriend’s farm a few days before. And they challenged her expulsion.

Last summer, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in her favor. The judges said the school board didn’t find she “willfully” violated school policy when she brought the knife to school, and she didn’t “willfully” engage in conduct that endangered herself or others.

The school district then appealed the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court, saying the ruling undermines the ability of schools to keep weapons out. The state's highest court agreed last fall to take on the case.

On Monday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case, according to the court's case summary, before deciding whether the school board complied with state law when it expelled Drescher for the remainder of her junior year.

The law says a student can be "dismissed" for a "willful violation of any reasonable school board policy" and "willful conduct that endangers the pupil or other pupils."

The state Supreme Court will look at whether "willful" requires that the student made a deliberate choice to violate the policy, and whether endangering others requires "probable harm or loss" in order to expel the student.

The Mankato Free Press says the school district is asking the Supreme Court to interpret "willful" to include students who act with "careless disregard" and to decide a threat needs to only be possible – not probable – to meet the law's grounds for dismissal.

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