Court Rules Ursuline Student Expelled Over TikTok Video Can Return to School

Written By: Robert Cox

WHITE PLAINS, NY (September 3, 2022) — A judge has ruled in favor of a rising high school senior at a private school in New Rochelle who was expelled two years ago over a TikTok video she made with two friends in the school cafeteria.

Why it matters: The applicable standard governing private schools is whether the disciplinary sanction was arbitrary and capricious — an extremely deferential standard — but Justice Torrent ruled the plaintiff established “a likelihood of success on the merits”.

Associate Justice of the Westchester Supreme Court Damaris E. Torrent ordered The Ursuline School of New Rochelle to restore Plaintiff E.P. as a student in good standing on August 23. Ursuline filed an appeal to a higher court the next day.

The salient fact: Justice Torrent found “unless this Court grants relief, an expelled high school student will be forced to attempt to find a private school to accept her on the eve of the commencement of the school year” adding “it is certainly irrational to punish a student with expulsion for conduct which is carried on regularly by other students without similar repercussions”.

The order enjoined the school from “conducting any further disciplinary proceedings against her and ordering defendant to immediately permit her to return to school and register for the 2022-23 academic year and to permit her immediate access to her school e-mail account and college applications, and otherwise resume all regular activities in good standing” and prohibited the school from “maintaining a record of expulsion without further order of the Court or otherwise enforcing its expulsion of plaintiff”.

The preliminary injunction issued in the Decision and Order dated April 22, 2022 thus is modified and shall remain in effect until further order of the Court. The undertaking ordered in the April 22, 2022 Decision and Order likewise shall remain in effect until further order of the Court.

Timeline & Justice Torrent’s order:

September 28, 2021: Plaintiff brought a similar application for injunctive relief on or about, after defendant notified plaintiff that she was expelled from school for certain conduct which defendant contends violates the school’s mission and values and provisions of the applicable Student/Parent Handbook

September 30, 2021: Justice James W. Hubert granted plaintiff’s application for a TRO

April 22, 2022: TRO was replaced by a preliminary injunction, pursuant to which plaintiff remained enrolled at the school through the 2021-2022 school year

July 2022: defense counsel notified plaintiff counsel by letter that the preliminary injunction had expired, and that plaintiff thus was no longer a student at the school

July 26, 2022: application was brought by proposed Order to Show Cause

August 19, 2022: After the recusal and reassignment, this Court was notified of the pending application for a TRO

August 22, 2022: Argument on the application for a TRO heard

August 17, 2022: Justice James W. Herbert recused himself

August 22, 2022: Both parties presented their arguments to the Court on Plaintiff E.P. application for a TRO

August 23, 2022: Justice Torrent ruled in favor of Plaintiff E.P.

Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that plaintiff’s application for preliminary injunction is granted; and it is further ORDERED that the preliminary injunction contained in the Decision and Order dated April 22, 2022 is hereby modified as indicated herein so as to remain in effect until further order of the to wit: defendant shall immediately (1) permit plaintiff E.P. to return to The Ursuline School and register for the 2022-2023 academic year; (2) permit plaintiff E.P to access her school e-mail account, college applications, and application materials; and (3) permit plaintiff E.P to otherwise resume all activities as a student in good standing; and defendant is hereby enjoined, until further order of the Court, from (4) conducting any further disciplinary proceedings against plaintiff E.P. with respect to the alleged conduct at issue in this litigation; and (5) entering or maintaining a record of expulsion with respect to plaintiff E.P. or otherwise attempting to enforce the expulsion of E.P.; and it is further ORDERED that, within ten (10) days of the date hereof, plaintiff shall serve a copy of this Decision and Order, with notice of entry, upon defendant; and it is further ORDERED that within ten (10) days of service of notice of entry, plaintiff shall file proof of said service via NYSCEF; and it is further ORDERED that the parties shall complete and file to NYSCEF a Preliminary Conference Stipulation to be so ordered, on or before September 2, 2022; and it is further ORDERED that if the parties fail to file the Preliminary Conference Stipulation as directed, the parties shall appear for virtual Preliminary Conference on September 7, 2022 at 12:30 p.m.

August 24, 2022: The Ursuline School of New Rochelle filed an appeal in the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Judicial Department

September 9, 2022: defendant must file opposing papers

September 16, 2022: plaintiff must file reply papers

November 1, 2022: next appearance date

Justice Torrent wrote: “It is not disputed that the plaintiff left her public school due to bullying, and that this circumstance was the impetus for her matriculation at the Ursuline School. Therefore, a retum to public school is not a viable option for the petitioner.

Justice Torrent found the plaintiff made a sufficient showing that:

  1. Certain conduct involving posting of inappropriate content occurred before she became a student at the school
    1. The other students engaged in creating an inappropriate video which plaintiff posted received a suspension, not expulsion
    2. Other students posted the same or similar videos without receiving sanctions”

He concluded that it could not seriously be disputed that in the absence of injunctive relief, the plaintiff will suffer grave injury and extreme and thus that the balance of the equities favors plaintiff. The Court has already conducted an evidentiary hearing on the prior application and all that has changed in the interim is that the injunction which was issued expired at the end of the prior school year. Given the time constraints presented by the reassignment of this matter to this Part on the eve of the new school year, and the already developed record, the Court finds that it would be imprudent to issue a TRO and order further briefing and hearing on the application for a preliminary injunction. Rather, the appropriate remedy at this stage is a modification of the prior preliminary injunction.

Go Deeper:



Justice Torrent’s Order