Beyond Actual Bias: A Fuller Approach to an Impartiality in School
John M. Malutinok1
“Fairness of course requires an absence of actual bias in the trial of cases. But our system of law
has always endeavored to prevent even the probability of unfairness.”
-Justice Hugo W. Black2
Arthur Newsome, a sixteen-year old junior, was accused of selling marijuana cigarettes on
the grounds of his Ohio high school.3 When the school principal confronted him, Newsome denied
the accusations, asking the principal on what grounds he was being accused.4 The principal
explained to Newsome that two students had informed the principal of Newsome’s conduct, and
refused to identify the students by name.5 Three days later, the Batavia High School notified
Newsome and his family that he would be suspended for ten days.6
Eight days after Newsome was notified of his suspension, Newsome and his mother were
present at the initial hearing. The superintendent of Newsome’s school district presided and heard
testimony from the principal about the interviews with Newsome’s unnamed accusers. The
principal testified about his investigation of the matter in support of his decision to suspend
Newsome.7 Newsome’s juvenile court officer also testified, recommending that Newsome be
immediately placed back in school because a urinalysis had tested negative for drug use.8 At the
conclusion of the hearing, the superintendent and the principal retreated together to deliberate in a
private session, from which Newsome and his mother were excluded, to “discuss the disposition
of the case.”9
Later that day, the superintendent informed Newsome and his mother of the final decision:
Newsome would be granted a clean disciplinary record upon his acceptance of transfer to a local
alternative disciplinary school.10 Should Newsome refuse, he would be expelled—a much stronger
penalty than the original ten-day suspension that he was appealing.11 When Newsome refused to
1 Current law clerk to federal judge. J.D., University of Georgia School of Law, 2016. Former Student Chief Editor,
Education Law & Policy Review. Former President, Education Law Students Association. Former middle school
language arts teacher. The author extends sincerest gratitude to Hillel Y. Levin—innovative scholar, engaging teacher,
and invaluable mentor—for his tireless recommendations, revisions, input, and encouragement.
2 In re Murchison, 349 U.S. 133, 136 (1955).
3 Newsome v. Batavia, 842 F.2d 920, 921 (6th Cir. 1988).
8 Newsome, 842 F.2d at 921.