FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) – A high school student who allegedly violated a school’s zero-tolerance alcohol policy cannot prevail on a due-process claim because he did not prove his innocence, a Texas appeals court ruled.
Matthew Hinterlong was expelled from Arlington Martin High School after an anonymous tip led school officials to find a thimbleful of a substance that smelled likelike alcohol in his vehicle. Hinterlong was placed in an alternative school.
Hinterlong sued the school district, claiming that its application of the policy violated his due-process rights. The trial court ruled in the school district’s favor.
Justice Sue Walker of the 2nd District Texas Court of Appeals affirmed the decision, ruling that the school district did not violate Hinterlong’s due process rights.
Specifically, she wrote that Hinterlong didn’t take advantage of an offer from Superintendent Dr. Mac Bernd to provide as evidence either an analysis proving the substance is not alcohol, testimony to corroborate Hinterlong’s assertion that someone planted the bottle in his car, or polygraph results showing Hinterlong had no knowledge of the bottle or its contents.
“Because (the school district) provided an escape mechanism in lieu of strict application of the zero tolerance policy – that is, Dr. Bernd testified that, if provided with any of the requested evidence, he would have reversed the expulsion decision – Hinterlong’s applied due process challenge must fail,” Walker wrote.