Jul 26, 2014
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24/7 School Policy Scrapped, but Lawsuits Remain

Haddonfield no longer has a student-conduct policy outside of school.

24/7 School Policy Scrapped, but Lawsuits Remain

The borough Board of Education last week officially repealed its so-called 24/7 student-conduct policy but a residue of unresolved lawsuits remain.

In July, the board suspended the policy of denying students arrested for alcohol or drug offenses the ability to participate in extracurricular activities. That was on the heels of a state Appellate Court ruling striking down a similar policy in the Ramapo Indian Hills school district because it violated state law.

The official repeal of the Haddonfield policy came last week after the state Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal for the case, BOE President Steve Weinstein said Wednesday.

But Matthew Wolf, a Cherry Hill attorney, said Wednesday the policy was never legal and nearly 90 students had their rights violated during the six years it was in effect.

"I offered to settle this suit for $1 in damages in 2009 if the board just repealed the policy," Wolf said. "They forced us to do three years of litigation."

Wolf said he originally worked pro bono, without a fee. But he said the board's hard line eventually led to him charge fees and seek higher monetary damages. He estimates fees and damages could exceed $600,000.

School officials have said they don't believe Wolf's case has merit and don't believe they will have to pay him or his plaintiffs. The school district's Joint Insurance Fund would pay damages if it loses the suits or settles. But Wolf said it would likely mean a substantial increase in premiums if that happens.

BOE officials could not be immediately reached about its JIF premiums.

Wolf also claims the BOE and the borough worked together to enforce the 24/7 policy. He said borough police had refused to offer station-house adjustments to teens for underage-drinking or minor drug offenses, as is the policy of the state attorney general. Once charged, students could be disciplined under the 24/7 policy.

Borough police and administration officials have denied station-house adjustments were not sometimes offered and said Wolf's claims have no merit.

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