This matter is before the court on the return day of an order to show cause ordering defendant board of education of the Shore Regional High School District to show cause why plaintiff R.R., an infant, who is appearing in this suit through his father M.R. as guardian ad litem , should not be readmitted to his regular classes at the high school and given additional instruction to bring him up to the level of his class. The parties have agreed that the court may treat the matter as if cross-motions for summary judgment had been made.
The essential facts are not in dispute. On January 20, 1970 R.R., aged 15, was a sophomore at the high school which is located in West Long Branch, New Jersey. After his dismissal from the high school at the end of the class day, he went to his home in a neighboring municipality, arriving about 3:30 P.M. Finding the door locked and no one at home, R.R. went across the street to the home of W.O. to see if his parents had left the key to the house there. When R.R. rang the doorbell, L.O., about 15 years old, came to the door and let R.R. in. It is not clear exactly what happened at this point. R.R. alleges that he was provoked into striking L.O. on the back of her head with a piece of wood that he was carrying. He claims that L.O. then picked up a knife and that during the ensuing scuffle in which he tried to get the knife away from her, she was cut in four places. Her version is that R.R. deliberately tried to stab her.
On January 21, 1970 Elbert M. Hoppenstedt, superintendent of the high school, was informed by the principal of the incident. Mr. Hoppenstedt immediately contacted the neighboring municipality's police department and was read a statement of L.O. which set forth her version of the incident. Based on this information and information from the principal and vice-principal of the school that R.R. had been engaged in less serious conflicts with other students (which R.R. denies), it was decided that R.R. should be suspended until the next meeting of the board of education. There was
no specification as to such alleged "less serious conflicts." There was no hearing afforded to R.R.
On January 22, 1970 a complaint was signed by a representative of the neighboring municipality's police department against R.R. alleging a violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:90-1. The complaint was forwarded to the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on January 29, 1970. A plea of not guilty was entered on February 25, 1970. The matter is now scheduled before that court for a formal hearing on April 9, 1970.
On January 23, 1970 M.R., R.R.'s father, who had been out of the State on business before this date, called the vice-principal of the high school who informed him of R.R.'s suspension from the high school until further notice. The vice-principal told M.R. that the high school would try to get home instruction for R.R. during the period of his suspension. On his own initiative, M.R. had his son examined on January 26, 1970 by Dr. Frank Husserl, a well-qualified psychiatrist. Dr. Husserl requested that R.R. be examined by Dr. Edward Dengrove. This examination was completed but Dr. Dengrove requested an electroencephalograph. As a result of the report of Dr. Dengrove and the report of the electroencephalograph, which was normal, and based on his examination, Dr. Husserl under date of February 6, 1970 addressed a letter:
I have examined the above named [R.R.] in my office on January 26, 1970.
It is my professional opinion that he may return to school without risk to the safety and security of others or himself.
On January 27, 1970 the board of education held its monthly agenda meeting. The matter of the suspension was brought to the board's attention by Mr. Hoppenstedt. The board had before it a copy of the statement given by L.O. to the Police. After discussion the board decided that R.R. should continue to remain at home indefinitely pending
further investigation and the outcome of his trial. Neither R.R. nor his parents were given notice of this meeting. At no time were they given an opportunity to present their position.
The first written notice of the suspension was received by M.R. in a letter dated January 27, 1970 from the principal of the high school:
In view of the events which have taken place this week involving your son [R.R.], he has been suspended from school until such time as we receive a written report from your doctor about [R.R.] This report will be reviewed and brought to the attention of the Superintendent and the Board of Education for further action. In the meantime, [R.R.] is not to attend school until we notify you that he may return.
While under suspension, [R.R.] may not attend or participate in any school sponsored activities. Enclosed is a statement which you and [R.R.] are to sign indicating he has been abiding by the conditions of his suspension.
Please call me if you have any questions about [R.R.'s] suspension.
After the board of education's agenda meeting on January 27, 1970 the superintendent under date of January 28, 1970 wrote to the parents:
After reviewing all of the facts in the case, the Board of Education has decided that R.R. should continue to remain at home indefinitely pending further investigation and the outcome of his trial. During this period, the Board will furnish R.R. with home instruction in order that he can continue his education without interruption. Mr. Misklow, Guidance Director, will be in touch with you to make arrangements for tutors to come to your home.
We will also want to conduct further testing of R.R. Please arrange to have him in the guidance office on Thursday, February 5th at 10 A.M. for consultation with the school psychologist, Dr. Butler. At a later date we will also make ...