A year after 17 students from a Cincinnati suburban high school were punished for drinking beer on a school trip to Germany, the students have been vindicated.
The students participated in an exchange program in Germany, where visiting beer gardens was part of the curriculum. Before the students left, their parents gave permission for them to drink beer while at the gardens to experience the local culture. The legal drinking age in Germany is 16.
The students could legally drink in Germany, school photographs of past trips showed earlier exchange students drinking beer, and there is no school policy against it. At least 25 parents later testified before the school board that they understood that discipline for any infractions would be a family decision.
A court has now ruled that the school board can't apply its code of conduct to the trip, especially after the students were told that it would be up to the students' parents if they would be allowed to drink.
The school board argued that its rules applied to alcohol consumption on the trip because the students were on a "school-related activity." However, the court found that "The record lacks any evidence that the code of conduct defines in any way the scope in time and place, or the beginning or end of a school-related activity."
"The parents clearly understood that when the students were separated from the supervision of the school, they were solely under the supervision of the host (German) parents" said the court.
School officials later decided that the students’ drinking while at a beer garden in Germany was a violation of the school’s code of conduct.
Two of the 19 students on the trip abstained from alcohol. The other 17 were suspended. Two accepted the suspension but 15 appealed and had their sentence modified to community service. However, two of the students hired a lawyer and appealed.
The court totally reversed the school’s decision. Unfortunately, the students had already been improperly punished.
The school board’s attorney said an appeal is likely. This appears to be yet another case of zero tolerance out of control.