A Tennessee high school did not err in suspending a student who drove his car into a crowd of classmates that had been making fun of him, a state appeals court ruled.
Christian Heyne, a senior at Hillsboro High School in the Nashville area, drove his car toward a group of freshman football players on Sept. 5, 2008.
Most of the students fled, but one had his foot pinned to the ground by Heyne's tire. Heyne reversed, checked on the classmate's foot and drove away.
Though Heyne first claimed it was an accident, he later admitted to overhearing the students joking about him moments earlier.
Principal Rod Manual suspended Heyne for 10 days, and the Nashville school board declined to hear the case. Heyne and his parents took the case to court, claiming violation of Heyne's equal-protection and due-process rights.
The trial court ruled in the Heynes' favor on the grounds that the case did not go before an impartial panel. It also found that there was no evidence of the risk of death or serious injury.
On May 6, however, the Nashville-based Tennessee Court of Appeals overturned that decision, partially because of the short duration of the suspension.
"We find Christian was afforded more than the requisite due process when he was allowed to submit a written statement to Principal Manual prior to the suspension, when he orally presented his version of events to the hearing board, and when he appealed the decision to the director's designee," Judge Frank Clement Jr. wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel.
Statements from witnesses also contradict the trial court's assertion that Heyne's conduct was not dangerous, according to the appeals court.
"One student stated that Christian Heyne sped toward the freshman students and that Christian did not honk his horn or give any indication of warning to the students as he drove his car toward the group," Clement wrote. "Another student stated that 'Christian started to speed up and he tried to go through the team.'"