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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27670
Experience:  Criminal Justice Degree, JD with Criminal Law Concentration. Worked for the DA and U.S. Attorney.
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a highschool student hits another student in the side of the

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a highschool student hits another student in the side of the head with an open handed slap as a "smack cam" video. The school suspended him for 3 days. The video clearly shows laughter as it is a prank however there is clearly physical contact. They call it an act of physical aggression. Is that correct?
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My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

Any harmful or offensive touching is legally considering battery. If the person being pranked did not consent to be slapped, a reasonable person would not appreciate that contact, or there was reason to know that this particular target would find it offensive, legally, the school is correct. This would be considered an act of physical aggression. What the law looks at is whether the person intended the touching and whether he knew that a reasonable person would find it offensive. It doesn't look at whether he intended it as a joke or if he meant to hurt the other person.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you. As a school board member I'm concerned about over punishment for things like this horseplay. I've seen kids get suspended for the same amount of days for pulling a knife out at school. Also the kid is is an A student with no discipline issues ever. It has been brought up about the suspension hurting there future of possibly getting into a top college. Would the board have a reason to think about that also? This is a board member's son. What are his rights as far as equal punishment?

If it's a "zero tolerance" policy, and he violated it, or the policy/rulebook states that any act of physical aggression is punishable by a suspension, he unfortunately doesn't have any rights to claim that he shouldn't receive that sentence just because someone else did something worse. The school also isn't legally required to consider how a person's college prospects could be affected by the punishment. In this scenario, if the board did consider that, they very likely would get accused of favoritism.

Look at it in a criminal context: If the punishment for battery is 3-5 years, and I punch someone in the face, I could get three years. Another person who beats someone badly could also potentially get three years. As long as the sentencing guidelines are followed and were not designed to punish people of a particular race, there is no ability to claim that a person either had a right to a lesser punishment or that the other person should have been punished more harshly (and there is no way to go back and make that happen). It's the same idea here. The school has the ability to punish someone, consistent with the rules and the punishment guidelines that are established.

The board would have the ability to review policy to see if there was a way to amend it, consistent with the state guidelines. If the board has the ability to overturn a person's suspension, that could be within their discretion as board members. I am only explaining why the original punishment is likely permissible, and why the board would not be required to change it.
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