Kenny v. Wilson

885 F.3d 280 (2018)

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Kenny v. Wilson

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
885 F.3d 280 (2018)

  • Written by Rose VanHofwegen, JD

Facts

Niya Kenny, three other individuals, and a nonprofit organization called Girls Rock Charleston (plaintiffs) sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, challenging South Carolina’s Disturbing Schools Law and Disorderly Conduct Law, which were commonly used to charge students for disruptive conduct at school. The complainants included three current or former black students charged with violations, one with disabilities; and a white student with disabilities. The complaint also described incidents involving Girls Rock members, black and Latina, charged with disturbing schools and placed in an alternative program lacking courses necessary to graduate high school. The violations involved arguably innocuous conduct like cursing at other students, attempting to document and stop a school resource officer violently arresting another student, and accusing a campus police officer of racial profiling. The complaint argued the statutes were unconstitutionally vague because they did not clearly define what conduct would constitute a violation, chilled students’ exercise of free speech, deprived students of due process, and were discriminatorily enforced against minorities. The complaint also claimed the statutes criminalized typical juvenile behavior like seven-year-olds cursing or refusing to follow directions, created stigma, and sent some 9,500 students into the juvenile justice system each year. Last, Girls Rock claimed it diverted time and resources to attend violation hearings with its members instead of developing other programs. The district court dismissed for lack of standing, finding the complainants’ fear of future arrest and prosecution too speculative to constitute an injury in fact. The complainants appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Diaz, J.)

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