Court upholds 5-year-old student’s suspension for swearing


LITTLE ROCK — Rogers school officials did not abuse their authority in suspending a 5-year-old student for half a day for using the “F-word” at school, the state Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

The appeals court upheld a Benton County circuit judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the child’s father, lawyer Ken Swindle. Swindle filed the lawsuit after Northside Elementary School’s principal suspended the boy for swearing a third time after being warned on two previous occasions not to use profanity at school.

After the third incident, the principal called Swindle and told him to pick up his son because he was suspended for the rest of the day. Swindle refused, and instead filed a complaint in Benton County Circuit Court that afternoon seeking to block the suspension. The child spent the afternoon in the principal’s office.

The Rogers School Board upheld the suspension in a hearing, and Swindle later amended his complaint to ask the court to order the board to delete any reference to the suspension from the boy’s record and to prohibit the school district from “suspending 5-year-old children without adult intervention.” Benton County Circuit Judge Xollie Duncan later granted a motion by the school board to dismiss the complaint.

In its opinion Wednesday upholding the circuit judge’s ruling, a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals said the school adhered to its discipline policy, under which suspension is the minimum punishment for use of profane language, repeated violation of school rules and insubordination.

Swindle’s request that the school remove any reference to the suspension and never suspend his son again again had no legal foundation, Judge Rhonda Wood wrote in the opinion.

“Swindle has not cited a single case that would support such a vast judicial overreach into matters left, rightly so, in the discretion of locally elected school boards,” Wood wrote.