Burp arrest

Court Rules School Was Justified In Strip Searching, Arresting Boy, 13, For Burping In Class

A middle school student was arrested and strip searched for burping repeatedly in class which his mother says was an “excessive use of force” given the situation. However, a New Mexico court disagreed and has ruled that an Albuquerque school was justified in the arrest of a 13-year-old student for disrupting the learning process. The ruling gives immunity to the school officials involved in the arrest.

ABC News reports that a 13-year-old boy was arrested and subsequently suspended for the remainder of the school year after a physical education teacher says he disrupted class by excessive burping. The seventh grader was known as a class clown and allegedly began burping loudly during class. Teacher Margaret Mines-Hornbeck says she responded to the burps by placing the child in the hallway. However, she says he continued to burp loudly and pointed his head in the door so that the burps could be heard by his classmate. Therefore, the teacher says she called the school’s resource officer, Arthur Acosta, to assist.

“Ms. Mines-Hornbeck explained that [the student] had generated several fake burps, which made the other students laugh and hampered class proceedings. After [the student] ignored her requests to stop making those noises, Ms. Mines-Hornbeck ordered him to sit in the hallway. [The student] nominally complied, but once he was situated in the hallway, he leaned into the classroom entranceway and continued to burp and laugh. This obliged Ms. Mines-Hornbeck to ‘hav[e] to deal with [the student] repeatedly’ and rendered her unable to continue teaching the class.”

Officer Arthur Acosta then led the boy to the school’s administration office before taking him to a juvenile detention center under charges of obstructing the education process. The boy’s mother says he remained at the detention center for an hour before she could make it to the facility to retrieve her son. The mother claimed that the school had used excessive force by arresting the teen for burping, an offense she says in the past would have resulted in detention or writing sentences, not juvenile hall.

The mother also pointed to a second incident in which she says the school performed an “illegal strip search” on her child.

“Court documents show the assistant principal who suspected the teen may have been involved in a marijuana transaction asked him to remove his shoes and jeans, and flip the waistband of a pair of shorts he was wearing under his jeans. The boy was wearing several more layers of clothing under the jeans. The search turned up a red bandanna, a belt buckle with the image of a marijuana leaf and other items but no drugs.”

However, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the term “strip search” was stretched in this case and that none of the boy’s constitutional rights were violated. They also ruled that the Albuquerque school was “justified” in the arrest of the student due to a New Mexico law that “prohibits anyone from interfering in the education process.”

Though the judges ruled that the school and resource officers should receive immunity in the case, the judges say that does not mean they agree with the law. In fact, it was noted that the majority of the judges disagreed with the law at hand but noted it was applied correctly. They refer to a quote in Oliver Twist in which Charles Dickens points out that the law can be “a a** — a idiot.”

“Often enough the law can be “a a** — a idiot,” Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist 520 (Dodd, Mead & Co. 1941) (1838) — and there is little we judges can do about it, for it is (or should be) emphatically our job to apply, not rewrite, the law enacted by the people’s representatives. Indeed, a judge who likes every result he reaches is very likely a bad judge, reaching for results he prefers rather than those the law compels. So it is I admire my colleagues today, for no doubt they reach a result they dislike but believe the law demands — and in that I see the best of our profession and much to admire. It’s only that, in this particular case, I don’t believe the law happens to be quite as much of a a** as they do. I respectfully dissent.”

What do you think about the arrest of a seventh grade student for burping in class, causing disruption of the learning process?

[Image via Shutterstock]

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