Georgia Supreme Court Affirms Students’ Right to Self-Defense

The right of self-defense, a fundamental human right that no one can be rightfully deprived, is not merely limited to one particular class of individuals. The wealthy are not to have it while the poor are deprived of it. And adults are not to have it, while children in school are denied it, the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled.

This is the first case the court has heard regarding school discipline. It heard a case from a school with a zero-tolerance policy on fighting, after a high school student found herself in a fight in 2014. Because of her involvement in the fight, she was expelled from Locust Grove High School and reassigned.

The school board was asked if enough consideration was given to the student for defending herself. The school board did not disagree with the expulsion, and the student took them to court. After a win and multiple appeals, the issue ended up at the state supreme court, where a ruling in her favor was issued, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting.

In making its decision, the Supreme Court considered video evidence and witness testimony about the actions of the student, identified in court documents as “S.G.”

“Very few children have access to lawyers when they face long-term suspension or expulsion from school and this case demonstrates the need for more lawyers to ensure that the rights of children are protected. For more than three years and at significant taxpayer expense, the Henry County Board of Education has defended an unlawful policy against a student who graduated in 2014. We hope that the Henry Board of Education will swiftly move to put this issue to bed by expunging S.G.’s record of this offense so that she can move forward with her life, but stand ready to once again defend S.G.’s rights if they fail to do so,” said Tafelski.

A part of the case dealt with Georgia’s statute protecting the right of self-defense. The code states that “A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when…he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary to defend himself or herself or a third person against such other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”

A local policy from any political subdivision or agency that conflicts with the statute is null and void.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the code does apply to schools, and that the school board cannot discount a student putting forth a self-defense claim, in spite of their “zero-tolerance” policies. Additionally, the court lambasted the lower court and the school board for illegally shifting the burdens of proof in a civil case.

In civil cases, as opposed to criminal, the burden of proof falls on the party making the grievance. However, the school put the burden on S.G., flipping the entire order of civil lawsuits, according to the ruling.

School disciplinary proceedings are civil matters, not criminal matters, and in a civil case, the burden of proof is upon the party asserting it. Yet the Court of Appeals improperly relied upon criminal law in concluding that once a student raises self-defense as justification for fighting, the burden of proof is upon the school board to disprove that defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

The school board will now be required to re-examine their actions, and take into account a self-defense claim.

The Georgia Supreme Court make an excellent ruling, and unanimously so. This flies in the face of fascistic “zero-tolerance” policies of many public schools, where the facts of cases are not really considered before punitive action is taken. And punishments are often for the most ludicrous of things.

Good for the people of Georgia. Keep going strong! Hopefully S.G.’s record will be properly expunged if she really was just defending herself.

H/T Bearing Arms