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Reversing decisions made by two lower courts, the Arizona Supreme Court has decided a student who misbehaved at public school cannot be prosecuted under criminal law for disorderly conduct. The court ruled the student, Julio L., behaved rudely, but not criminally. Writing for the court, Justice Stanley G. Feldman said that although “very little guidance currently exists to define this boundary between school discipline and criminal prosecution, in Arizona or any other jurisdiction, our laws do not make criminals out of adults or juveniles just because they act offensively or rudely or lack respect and control.” The case involved Julio, a 15-year-old student at an alternative middle school for youths with behavioral problems. After not wearing the required uniform to school, the student talked, laughed, and giggled during a morning class, and the school’s director-principal, Sandra Ferrero, was called. She twice asked Julio to talk with her outside the classroom. He ignored her requests and entered his homeroom during the transition between classes. When the principal asked him a third time to talk to her, he yelled, “F � – you,” and kicked over a plastic chair, which did not injure anyone. The state filed a delinquency petition against Julio, alleging disorderly conduct. Both the trial court and the state court of appeals supported the petition. Based on the facts, the high court decided Julio’s conduct did not amount to seriously disruptive behavior. The principal was named as the victim in the charges against Julio, leaving the state with the burden of proving her peace was disturbed. Because her job description entails dealing with behavioral problems, and especially because the school is designed for students with known problems, the court decided the principal was performing her duties in dealing with Julio’s behavior. His behavior did not substantially disrupt anything, and although he was definitely rude, he was not criminal, the court found.

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