Student with knife in locker shouldn't have been expelled, MN Supreme Court says


Alyssa Drescher didn't willfully violate school policy or endanger herself or others when she accidentally brought a 3-inch pocketknife to school.

That's according to the Minnesota Supreme Court's opinion on the case released Wednesday, which ruled Drescher should not have been expelled from a southern Minnesota high school after school officials found a pocketknife in her locker – a knife she said she forgot was in her bag.

Here's a look at what the Supreme Court considered (such as the definitions of "willfully" and "endanger") when ruling in favor of the former student.

The case

Drescher was expelled from United South Central in Wells for six weeks in April 2014 after officials found the knife in the then-junior's locker during a random school-wide search.

The school board said Drescher "willfully" violated school policy by bringing the knife to school – an action that endangered herself and others, the board said.

But Drescher and her family challenged the expulsion, saying she simply forgot the knife was in her purse. She had thrown it in there a few days before after using it to cut bales of hay at her boyfriend's farm.

Drescher returned to school the next fall and graduated, but the expulsion stayed on her record, KEYC reports.

Drescher and her family appealed the school board's decision in an effort to clear her record, and last summer the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in her favor.

The school board then appealed the decision to the higher Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing the ruling undermines the school's ability to keep weapons out.

Supreme Court's decision

But the Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed with the school board's appeal and affirmed the appeals court ruling, clearing Drescher's record.

The court, using several dictionaries, looked into the definitions of the words "willfully" and "endangered" to come to its opinion.

The school district had argued Drescher didn't need to be aware of the school policy to be expelled for "willfully" violating it. But the court disagreed because Drescher had to know the policy existed to violate it intentionally, based on the definition of "willfully."

So in essence, she couldn't intentionally break a rule she didn't know existed.

The school also argued having a knife on school grounds – even if no one knew it was there – endangered the safety of Drescher and other students because pocketknives are "inherently dangerous."

The court disagreed with the school district again, saying a 3-inch pocketknife isn't inherently dangerous, and that the school district didn't prove people were in danger from the "forgotten" knife that no one knew was there in first place.

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