Lee v. Pine Bluff School Dist.

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In Lee v. Pine Bluff School Dist., 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 301 (8th Cir. Jan. 8 2007), the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit denied recovery to a mother whose son died from an illness following a public school band trip. Specifically, the Court that there was no Section 1983 violation when the band trip was not compulsory, the student was not prohibited from leaving the trip, the student was not prevented from contacting his mother by telephone, the mother was not prohibited from contacting the boy, and nothing else converted a voluntary participation in the trip into an involuntary one.

The court said, "DeShaney recognized that in tragic cases like this one, 'judges and lawyers, like other humans,' are moved by natural sympathy to try to compensate a mother for her loss, ... but that the Fourteenth Amendment was not designed to provide relief in all cases where the State's functionaries fail to take action that might have averted a serious harm. The constitutional duties derived from substantive due process analysis are carefully circumscribed, and the events alleged here do not implicate the limited circumstances in which the Constitution obligates a State to care for an individual's medical needs. The State of Arkansas, of course, may fashion a system of tort liability that would hold school officials accountable for negligence or deliberate indifference leading to the death of a student on a school-sponsored trip."