In a recent incident, Northside Independent School District administrators have opted to elevate the charges in the Texas referee incident against two football players which will result in an increase in their school liability insurance. School district officials reacted prematurely which could ultimately cost them lots of money in the long run. Northside Independent School District administrators could have protected the students’ double jeopardy constitutional rights in the Texas referee incident as a method to ensure that their school liability insurance does not increase.
According to the article, Texas HS Ref Collision to Be Treated as Assault on a School Official, school officials have escalated the level of possible discipline for both students. School officials have once again over reacted as many other media sources have followed. School officials decided to suspend the students from school and schedule expulsion hearings.
It has since been found that the Texas referee incident allegedly involved the usage racial slurs directed at Blacks and Hispanics. The students claimed that during the football game the referee made several derogatory remarks directed at Hispanics and Blacks. It has also been found that the students were following the directions of an assistant coach when they allegedly attacked the referee in question. The assistant coach, Mack Breed, allegedly stated, “this guy needs to pay for cheating us.” The coach has since been placed on administrative leave following Northside Independent School District protocol.
What should have been the initial response to the Texas referee incident by the Northside Independent School District to avoid future school liability insurance increases?
Since a penalty was assessed for the football player’s behavior, the school district should have responded by protecting the student’s constitutional rights. The Tinker v. Des Moines School District case provides the prevailing case that protects students’ constitutional rights. According to the case, several students had planned to wear black armbands to school to protest the United States involvement in the Vietnam War. School officials learned of the possible protest and quickly adopted a no-armband rule. The students wore the armbands to school. School officials suspended them for violating school policy. The students sued, claiming violation of their First Amendment constitutional rights. By a prevailing 7-2 vote, the Court held that school officials cannot censor student speech unless school officials can reasonably forecast that the speech will cause a material and substantial disruption of school activities or suppress the rights of others.
In the case of the Texas referee incident, school officials could have invoked the student’s double jeopardy constitutional rights as a method to ensure that their school liability insurance does not increase. Double jeopardy is a clause linked to the 5th constitutional amendment. According to the Fifth Amendment, “No person shall … be subject for the same offence [sic] to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This provision, known as the Double Jeopardy Clause, prohibits state and federal governments from prosecuting individuals for the same crime on more than one occasion, or imposing more than one punishment for a single offense.
Texas referee incident school officials could have cited that since the students were punished for the incident during the football game we have elected not to implement any additional consequences until we complete our investigation. However, since it has been found that the students were following the instructions of an assistant coach, not only can the referee sue the school district but the parents of the football players have grounds to sue the school district for racial discrimination.
It is evident that discrimination against Black and Hispanic students is prevalent in this school district due to the swiftness of the decision to suspend the students and hold a expulsion hearings for the students without making that determination prior to a complete investigation. It will be interesting to see what mechanisms are publicized by the school district for the errors that were made.
The Texas referee incident should serve as a reminder to all school officials that racism in education will backfire against all perpetrators and facilitators. The parents of the football players will be able to sue for damages. Even though there was not extensive damage to the Texas incident referee, expect for him to sue which will ultimately increase the school’s school liability insurance.
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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
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