State Supreme Court Holds Constitutional Right to a Sound Education Includes a Safe Learning Environment

On June 11, the state Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Deminski v. State Board of Education holding that a student’s constitutional right to a “sound basic education” included protection from known bullying and harassment.

The case involved a mother, Ashley Deminski, and three children who were subjected to extreme bullying and sexual harassment at Lakeforest Elementary School in Pitt County. Deminski alleged that multiple reports to school authorities about the harassment were largely met with inaction. She brought suit in late 2017 asserting that the school’s indifference to the harassment violated her children’s rights to educational opportunity under the North Carolina Constitution.

The Court of Appeals dismissed the case holding that the constitutional guarantee to a sound education “extends no further than an entity affording a sound basic education by making educational opportunities available.” The Supreme Court reversed and found that “[w]here a government entity with control over the school is deliberately indifferent to ongoing harassment that prevents a student for accessing his constitutionally guaranteed right to a sound basic education, the student has a colorable claim under the North Carolina Constitution.”

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