North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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June 5, 2000
Glen Peterson General Counsel

N.C. Department of Administration 1301 Mail Service Center Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1301

Re: Advisory Opinion; "Lose Control, Lose Your License" Legislation and Home Schools; N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-11(n1)(1)d.2

Dear Mr. Peterson,

By memorandum dated April 28, 2000, you asked this office's opinion regarding the application of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-11(n1)(1)d.2. to home school students. In particular, you asked whether the application of that statute would result in a one-year loss of the driver's license or learner's permit for a home school student who used a weapon or firearm in a lawful manner under the supervision of his or her parent/guardian on the property of the parent/guardian.

It is our opinion that, in the circumstances you describe, application of the statute would not result in the loss of the student's driver's license or learner's permit.

The "primary rule of statutory construction is that the intent of the legislature controls the interpretation of a statute." Stevenson v. Durham, 281 N.C. 300, 303, 188 S.E.2d 281, 283 (1972). See also State v. Blackstock, 314 N.C. 232, 240, 333 S.E.2d 245, 250 (1985) ("cardinal principle of statutory construction is that the intent of the legislature is controlling"). That intent is ascertained by "consider[ing] the language of the statute, the spirit of the act, and what the act seeks to accomplish." Stevenson v. Durham, 281 N.C. at 303, 188 S.E.2d at 283.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-11(n1)(1)d.2., which becomes effective on July 1, 2000, was enacted as part of the "Lose Control, Lose Your License" legislation. N.C. Sess. Law c. 243 (1999). This legislation expressly applies to home schools. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-11(n1)(1)a. Generally, the legislation links the availability of driving privileges for students under 18 to their performance and conduct in school by denying driving privileges to or revoking the driving privileges of students who engage in defined "enumerated student conduct." See generally N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-11(n1). The legislation not only encourages students to attend school and to perform and behave well in school, but also preserves the discretion of school administrators, including home-school administrators, to decide whether and what level of discipline is appropriate in particular circumstances.

Toward that end, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-11(n1)(1)d. specifically and precisely defines "enumerated student conduct" as follows:

d. Enumerated student conduct. -- One of the following behaviors that results in disciplinary action:

  1. The possession or sale of an alcoholic beverage or an illegal controlled substance on school property.

  2. The bringing, possession, or use on school

property of a weapon or firearm that resulted in disciplinary action under G.S. 115C-391(d1) or

that could have resulted in that disciplinary action if the conduct had occurred in a public school.

3. The physical assault on a teacher or other school personnel on school property.

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-11(n1)(1)d. (emphasis added). The statute unambiguously defines "enumerated student conduct" to be conduct which actually "results in disciplinary action." Id. We believe the statutory predicate of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 2011(n1)(1)d. -- that the behavior actually "result[] in disciplinary action" -- takes precedence over the later language in the subordinate clause of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 2011(n1)(1)d.2. The statute also defines "disciplinary action" to be "[a]n expulsion, a suspension, for more than 10 consecutive days, or an assignment to an alternative educational setting for more than 10 consecutive days." N.C. Gen. Stat. § 2011(n1)(1)c.

Under the circumstances you have described, the parent/guardian has taken no disciplinary action; in fact, the parent has given permission for possession or use of the weapon. Thus, the conduct in question does not fulfill the statutory predicate and does not fall within the statutory definition of "enumerated student conduct" in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-11(n1)d. Of course, if the parent/guardian does take statutorily defined disciplinary action under appropriate circumstances, then the conduct would fall within the statutory definition of "enumerated student conduct," and the student would lose his or her driving privileges.

Therefore, it is our opinion that a student enrolled in a home school who lawfully uses a weapon on the property of the parent/guardian, with the parent/guardian’s permission and under the parent/guardian’s supervision, does not engage in "enumerated student conduct" which results in loss or denial of driving privileges.

Signed by:

Grayson G. Kelley Senior Deputy Attorney General

Thomas J. Ziko, Jr. Special Deputy Attorney General

Thomas O. Lawton III Assistant Attorney General