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Indiana Supreme Court: High School Student Guilty in Confrontation with Administrators
Posted in Litigation

In Bailey v. State, the Indiana Supreme Court held that evidence at trial was sufficient to support the criminal convictions of a high school student on counts of battery and disorderly conduct.  The Court also examined what behavior constitutes disorderly conduct under Indiana law. 

In this case, Christopher Bailey was standing in line for breakfast at Perry Meridian High School in Marion County when an Assistant Principal asked him to pull up his pants.  An upset Bailey refused her request, then used his body to push through her extended arm.  The Dean of Students moved to confront Bailey, who threw down his drink and coat, clenched his fists at his sides, stepped “within six to twelve inches” of the Dean’s face, and unleashed a series of obscenities.  At the arrival of a police officer, Bailey calmly left and was arrested soon after.    

The State charged Bailey with two Class B misdemeanors: battery, Ind. Code § 35-42-2-1, and disorderly conduct, Ind. Code § 35-45-1-3.  A Marion Superior Court judge convicted him after a bench trial.  On appeal, Bailey argued that insufficient evidence existed to support either conviction.  The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed and reversed. 

On the count of battery, the State was required to show that Bailey knowingly touched the Assistant Principal in a rude, insolent, or angry manner.  Bailey argued that he lacked the requisite state of mind.  The Indiana Supreme Court disagreed, concluding that testimony from the school staff and Bailey himself was sufficient to support the verdict.

On the count of disorderly conduct, the State was required to prove that Bailey engaged in fighting or tumultuous conduct.  Bailey maintained that his conduct did not rise to the level of “tumultuous conduct,” defined as conduct that results in—or is likely to result in—serious bodily injury or substantial property damage.  Bailey argued that this “probability of violence” is established only when the defendant’s actions are likely to provoke the opposing party (here, the Dean of Students) to violence. 

The Indiana Supreme Court again disagreed, finding that disorderly conduct may also occur when the defendant “appears well on his way to inflicting serious bodily injury but relents in the face of superior force of creative resistance.”  Bailey’s clenched fists, angry approach, and stream of obscenities were sufficient for a trier of fact to conclude that, but for the arrival of the police officer, Bailey’s conduct would have escalated.  The Court likened his throwing of his drink and coat to “throwing down the gauntlet, as in I’m throwing it down so I have my arms free to fight you.”  Finding sufficient evidence on both counts, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Bailey’s convictions.



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