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Title: Teacher May Be Liable for Striking Student with Lacrosse ìSubbingî
Author: Jack Ryan
ID: LL96
Issue: SU1-4
Issue Date: 2004-07-01
Edition: School
Type: Article


How will a school officialís use of force against a student be analyzed? Some courts have applied the 4th Amendmentís ìreasonablenessî standard while others have applied a due process standard. A recent case from Connecticut applied a lengthy analysis to a teacherís striking a student with a lacrosse ìsubbing,î which the court described as a block/baton. Ferrigno v. Leblang, 2004 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1762 (Ct. Super. Ct. 2004).

The teacher in the case, Nils Leblang allegedly made a lewd remark to students who were seated in the bleachers awaiting boysí lacrosse practice. Leblang, a substitute teacher was coaching the girlsí lacrosse practice.

The student, Ross Ferrigno, who was seated in the bleachers objected to Leblangís lewd comment. His objection led to a confrontation. Leblang, described by the court as infuriated with Ferrignoís verbal protest, picked up the wooden lacrosse ìsubbingî and threw it at Ferrigno, striking him in the face, causing injury and bleeding.

Ferrigno filed a civil rights lawsuit against Leblang alleging a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights to be free from an unreasonable seizure (excessive force) and a Fifth Amendment claim. Ferrigno cited to a previous case that held: ìA decision to discipline a student, if accomplished through excessive force and appreciable physical pain, may constitute an invasion of the childís Fifth Amendment interest in his personal security and a violation of substantive due process prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment. Thus, the court was faced with three potential civil rights violations.

The court, in its analysis reviewed the factors that must be considered:

The need for the application of force

The relationship between the need for force and the amount of force that was actually used

The extent of the injury inflicted

Was the force applied in a good faith effort to restore discipline and maintain order OR was it administered maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.

Here the court noted that Leblangís actions, if proven, was not conduct directed at a disruptive student since he was alleged to be the one who initiated the confrontation with the lewd remark. Additionally, throwing a wooden object at a student during a verbal altercation would exceed the permissible force from a need standpoint. Finally, Ferrignoís injury was significant in that he had to be treated by a school trainer and subsequently at the hospital.

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