The parents of three Dobson High School students are suing to block a five-day suspension their boys received for drinking beer on a band trip to China.
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge has scheduled an emergency hearing Monday to consider placing a hold on the punishment, which would begin Wednesday, the first day of school.
The Mesa Unified School District filed a motion Friday to dismiss the case.
The parents in their lawsuit say the punishment isn't fair because the district's employees failed to properly supervise the students. A Chinese tour guide provided beer while spending hours in a hotel room with the teens. The suit says the tour guide took his shirt off because he was hot, then watched the students play drinking games until they were wearing nothing but boxers.
The boys and their parents admit they drank one night during the Jazz Bog Band and Wind Symphony's 10-day trip in June. Parent Danelle Teten said the boys, all minors, had excellent grades and were model students who shouldn't be punished without a more formal disciplinary process.
"We're not trying to say that they shouldn't be punished but we would like to have a fair hearing," Teten said.
The filing by the district claims administrators followed policies for the short-term discipline. The suspensions allow the students to complete their schoolwork and their punishment will not show up on their permanent records, the district wrote. The suspensions won't be disclosed to colleges or anybody else because federal law prohibits that.
The district contends the parents threatened to generate bad publicity if administrators kept the suspensions in place. The parents' suit includes other allegations of sexual conduct and a Chinese sex worker groping a boy in the hotel.
"In any event, Plantiffs' arguments are baseless and meant to do nothing more than embarrass and discredit the school and its staff in an effort to win a tactical advantage," the suit states.
The parents are unfairly blaming the district, the band director and the principal for a violation that the students admit to, the district wrote in its response.
But the attorney for the parents, Jon Paladini, said the district didn't appear to hold its employees accountable for not providing sufficient supervision. In papers filed Friday, the district said it provided one adult for every nine students on the trip, which exceeds the district's chaperone requirements.
"It's too bad that these boys are being held to a standard that the adults aren't being held to," Paladini said. "Nobody else seems to be accepting responsibility."