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Department of Education

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Appeal Decisions

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BOOK: 14 
MONTH-YEAR: June - 1997
IN RE: In re Don A. Shinn
APPELLANT: Barbara Ames
APPELLEE: Keokuk Community School District
KEYWORDS: Expulsion/Vandalism
DETAILS: Appellants son was expelled on September 23, 1996, for his participation in vandalizing the school. Appellant raises basically three issues in this appeal:  The first pertains to the burden of proof.  Is the burden of proof on the school board to prove that Don Shinn committed the acts of vandalism as charged, or is the burden of proof on the student to prove that he is innocent? The second issue concerns the amount of evidence presented to the Board. Appellant contends there was insuf-ficient evidence to expel Don Shinn for the remainder of the school year when the principal himself had only recommended expulsion for the remainder of the semester. And, finally, Appellant questions the impartiality of the decisionmaker because one of the Board members had been personally affected by the vandalism of the students under consideration for expulsion.
Besides the damage done to the school property, Don and his fellow students were charged with other acts of vandalism as well.  They were also charged with shooting out 36 car windows throughout town.  One of the cars belonged to school board member Kathy Seibert.  Prior to the Board meeting on September 23, 1996, Ms. Seibert had been asked by the Lee County Attorney to sign an estimate of damage to her vehicle.  The damage estimate form named three defendants, Don Allen Shinn was one of them.  The damage estimate to her car was $349.15.  (Exh. E.)  The damage estimate specified that the total amount of the damage had been covered by insurance.
  In the present appeal, Appellant does not raise any issues involving the principles of ''notice'' or of the ''decisionmaking process.''  The gravamen of Appellants complaint concerns the hearing procedures.  All of Appellants complaints involve the ''rights''. In the present case, Mr. Shinn was given ''a full and fair opportunity to be heard.''  He chose not to exer-cise it.  He was not denied the opportunity to call witnesses in his behalf.
  The vote to expel Don Shinn for the remainder of the school year was a unanimous vote.  Nevertheless, Mrs. Ames charges that Board Member Seibert may have been biased against her son because of the damage to her car.  Although it would have been better for this board member to abstain from the vote to avoid any appearance of bias, she was not legally required to do so under the circumstances. Evidence includes the proof presented at a hearing through witnesses or documents.  In the present case, the only proof presented was the investigative report of Principal Wemette, along with his recommendation for expulsion.
  A ''preponderance of the evidence'' exists when there is enough evidence to ''tip the scales of justice one way or the other'' or enough evidence is presented to outweigh the evidence on the other side.  In the absence of any evidence presented by Appellant to contradict the evidence presented by Principal Wemette before the Board, and because the evidence presented before the Board is the same type of evidence constitut-ing ''probable cause'' for the police to file charges against Don Shinn and the other students, we cannot say that the principles of fair hearing have been violated.  Absent any credible contradictory evidence, the Board was justified in its findings and conclusions against Don A. Shinn.
OUTCOMES: That the decision of the Keokuk Community School District Board of Directors made on September 23, 1996, was affirmed.