IN THE MATTER OF: Q.P.W., Durham County
Juvenile No. 04 J 245
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General P.
Bly Hall, for the State.
Russell J. Hollers, III, for defendant-appellant.
Juvenile Q.P.W. was adjudicated delinquent under a petition
charging him with disorderly conduct at school in violation of N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 14-288.4(a)(6). The district court imposed a Level I
community disposition placing Q.P.W. on probation for twelve
The State's evidence tended to show the following: On the morning of 8 February 2006, Q.P.W. had an argument with a fellow student in a hallway at Lakeview School in Durham County, North Carolina. After receiving a radio communication about the argument, Lakeview's principal, Elton O'Neil, responded to the hallway and saw that Q.P.W. and a second male student had been separated. Q.P.W. was instructed to go outside through the back door and to meet O'Neil in front of the school. Although Q.P.W.exited through the back door as directed, he came back into the school through the front entrance and proceeded down the hallway . . . back to the area where the fight had occurred before being stopped by O'Neil. Q.P.W. was angry and was focused on . . . going back to the hallway.
Assistant Principal Shirina Cobb testified that in the middle of the school day on 8 February 2006, a behavior specialist reported by walkie-talkie that a student had left a classroom. Cobb walked to the front lobby and saw Q.P.W. proceeding down the hallway saying that he was leaving. When O'Neil told him that he needed to remain at school, Q.P.W. became belligerent and started using profanity. Cobb joined O'Neil in telling Q.P.W. that he needed to stay in the school until they contacted his court counselor. In response, Q.P.W. yet again . . . became irate, and yelled, 'F this school. I don't want to be here. I'm not going to stay.' Asked how long she had attempted to persuade Q.P.W. to remain in the school, Cobb responded as follows:
Two, three minutes. But he's yelling and screaming. The lobby area is _ it's the hallway right there and there are classrooms right down there. So it's loud and it's right there where the classrooms are.
Cobb and O'Neil brought Q.P.W. to the school's outer lobby in an attempt to calm him down. Q.P.W. eventually left the building.
Durham City Police Officer K. Cruse testified that he was working off-duty at Lakeview School on 8 February 2006 when Principal O'Neil called [him] down to the middle school hall because [Q.P.W.] was causing a disturbance, using profanelanguage. When Cruse arrived at the hallway, he found Q.P.W. ranting, raving, hollering, screaming, cursing, shouting 'F this school' and other stuff. Q.P.W. continued cursing and yelling for five, ten minutes or a little longer[,] proceeding all the way down the hallway to the front of the building before Cruse escorted him from the school. Cruse noted that the hallway where Q.P.W. was yelling was lined with classrooms, and that O'Neil, the crisis teacher, Q.P.W.'s counselor, and students from the crisis room were present in the hallway.
On appeal, Q.P.W. claims the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the delinquency petition at the conclusion of the State's evidence, absent sufficient proof that he created a public disturbance under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-288.4(a)(6) (2005). In our review of this ruling, we must determine whether the State adduced substantial evidence of each essential element of the charge. In re Bass, 77 N.C. App. 110, 115, 334 S.E.2d 779, 782 (1985). We consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the State and indulge every reasonable inference that may be drawn from the evidence in the State's favor. Id. Contradictions and discrepancies in the evidence are likewise resolved in favor of the State, as non-movant. State v. Myers, __ N.C. App. __, __, 639 S.E.2d 1, 7 (2007) (citing State v. Malloy, 309 N.C. 176, 179, 305 S.E.2d 718, 720 (1983)).
Disorderly conduct is defined by G.S. § 14-288.4(a)(6) as a public disturbance intentionally caused by any person who [d]isrupts, disturbs or interferes with the teaching of studentsat any public or private educational institution or engages in conduct which disturbs the peace, order or discipline at any public or private educational institution or on the grounds adjacent thereto[.] To violate G.S. § 14-288.4(a)(6), the disturbance in question must cause "a substantial interference with, disruption of and confusion of the operation of the school in its program of instruction and training of students there enrolled. State v. Wiggins, 272 N.C. 147, 154, 158 S.E.2d 37, 42 (1967); see also In re Eller, 331 N.C. 714, 417 S.E.2d 479 (1992).
In In re Pineault, 152 N.C. App. 196, 566 S.E.2d 854 (2002), this Court held that a student's loud use of profanity during the school day was sufficient to constitute a substantial interference as contemplated in Wiggins. In Pineault, a teacher was conducting class when she heard a juvenile angrily tell a fellow student, F--k you. Id. at 197, 566 S.E.2d at 856. The teacher stopped teaching her class to take the juvenile to the principal's office and report what he had done. In affirming the denial of the juvenile's motion to dismiss, we assessed the evidence as follows:
While the record does not indicate how long [the teacher] was away from the classroom, it does establish that she escorted respondent to the principal's office and explained to office staff what had happened, thereby indicating she was away from the classroom for more than several minutes. . . . [G]iven the severity and nature of respondent's language, coupled with the fact that [the teacher] was required to stop teaching her class for at least several minutes, that respondent's actions substantially interfered with the operation of [the teacher]'s classroom[.]Id. at 199, 566 S.E.2d at 857.
The evidence need not show an actual disruption of classroom instruction to sustain a charge of disorderly conduct at school. In In re M.G., 156 N.C. App. 414, 415, 576 S.E.2d 398, 399 (2003), a student was adjudicated delinquent under to of G.S. § 14-288.4(a)(6) for yelling profanity at a group of students in a middle school hallway where classes were in session. A teacher who was walking to lunch duty in the cafeteria was delayed for several minutes while taking the juvenile to the school detention center and reporting his misconduct. Id. On appeal, we affirmed the trial court's denial of the juvenile's motion to dismiss. Because the evidence showed that the teacher was away from his assigned duties for at least several minutes[,] we held that the nature and the duration of the disruption was sufficient to establish a substantial interference with school operations. Id. at 417, 576 S.E.2d at 401.
Based upon our decisions in In re Pineault and In re M.G., we conclude that the State's evidence was sufficient to withstand Q.P.W.'s motion to dismiss. In attempting to distinguish his case from In re M.G., Q.P.W. asserts that his misconduct lasted no more than two or three minutes rather than at least several minutes as in the prior case. In making this argument, he appears to rely on Cobb's estimate of the duration of her exchange with Q.P.W. By her own account, however, Cobb's participated in only a portion of the incident. She described Q.P.W. as becoming belligerent and using profanity with O'Neil before she intervened. Moreover,Officer Cruse testified that Q.P.W.'s cursing and yelling lasted five, ten minutes or a little longer after Cruse was called to the scene, and that it continued all the way down [a] hallway lined with classrooms. Cruse further stated that Q.P.W.'s counselor, the crisis room teacher and students from the crisis room were also present during the incident. As finder of fact, the district court was entitled to credit Cruse's testimony on these issues. Accordingly, given the duration, volume and profane nature of Q.P.W.'s outburst, as well as the time and location of the outburst and the number of school officials who were required to address it, we hold that the evidence was sufficient to establish his substantial interference with the school's operation under G.S. § 14-288.4(a)(6).
Judges McCULLOUGH and STEELMAN concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
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