My colleague at Education Law Prof Blog, LaJuana Davis, posted on a new stand your ground case out of Florida last week. In T.P. v. Florida, a Florida appellate court overturned a lower court decision that had rejected a student's attempt to assert protection under Florida's stand your ground statute in the context of a school fight. The basic facts involve two students getting in a fight on the school bus. They dispute who started the fight, but, in essence, it involved coat-pulling and a punch or two. After the fight, one of the students was arrested and charged with battery in a juvenile proceeding (another problematic issue unto itself).
The appellate court indicated that a school bus is a place where "a person is entitled to be" under the statute. If the juvenile defendant had, in fact, been confronted with force, he has entitled to use force in response and was immune from juvenile or criminal charges. The court was careful to note, however, that a tort battery, consisting of an unwanted touching (such as tugging on one's coat), would not amount to force.
What's next? Exemption from school expulsion. The stand your ground statute speaks only to criminal immunity, but, if I were representing a child in an expulsion hearing, I would press the fact that the child was only acting in a way that the law affirmatively protects and it would be inconsistent for a school to punish a child for something the law says he or she can do. Of course, this only shows how absurd stand your ground is. Many schools take the position that when a fight occurs and both students act with violence, there are no innocent parties. In other words, schools expect students to deescalate a situation or be prepared to suffer the consequences. Application of stand your ground to school grounds obviously sends the opposite message.
For more on the case itself, see Professor Davis's posting from last Wednesday here.