In the case of Hannemann v. Southern Door County School District, the Seventh Circuit recently held that a school district did not violate the procedural due process rights of a former student who was banned from school property. The student had been expelled from the School District for violating the School District’s weapons policy and was later reinstated. After the reinstatement, the student was involved in other acts of misconduct and, at that point, the School District decided to permanently expel the student. Although the expulsion was overturned, the student did not return to the School District and instead enrolled in a private school.
Despite the fact that he was no longer a student, the student would on occasion enter the school campus. As a result, the School District sent the student notice that he was “no longer to enter upon the property of the … [School District] for any purpose effective immediately.” The student filed suit against the School District, arguing that his procedural due process rights and his right to intrastate travel had been violated due to the prohibition against the student entering school property.
When a party asserts a procedural due process claim, the court must determine: (1) whether the individual was deprived of a protected interest in either liberty or property; and (2) what type of process is due if the individual establishes a protected interest. The student argued that he was deprived of a protected liberty interest because he suffered “stigmatic harm,” due to the harm to his “good name, reputation, honor or integrity.” In order to be actionable, however, the “stigmatic harm” must be concrete and extend beyond mere reputational interests. The party must suffer an alteration or elimination of a right or status previously recognized by state law, such as when a student is deprived of the right to attend public school.
The Seventh Circuit held that the student failed to establish that he was deprived of a protected liberty interest. The court found that the student failed to establish that any stigma resulting from the ban has caused him to lose a right previously recognized by state law. Because members of the public do not have a constitutional right to access school property, the School District retains the discretion to bar members of the public from school property. Thus, the student was unable to establish the loss of a previously recognized right.
Further, the Seventh Circuit rejected the student’s argument that the ban violated his right to intrastate travel. The right to intrastate travel protects the right to move from place to place, not the right to access certain public places, such as school property.