Only the second part of the CommonApplication's discipline question--asking whethera student has ever been suspended or removed fromschool--could apply to Grant's case.
Burnham said an applicant is "not required toanswer" the question if an affirmative responsewould involve matters contained in sealed judicialrecords.
"`Sealed' means that no one shall have accessto the records," Burnham added. "I don't read thequestion as applying to [criminal] records, but toaction taken in regard to a student by a school."
Jack B. Swerling, Grant's defense attorneyduring the 1991 murder trial, said he agreed.
"The fact that Gina Grant went through thefamily-court system in South Carolina is notrelevant to Harvard's consideration of whether sheis a qualified student," Swerling said in atelephone interview yesterday.
"The [application] question is something thatrelates to the academic world," Swerling said."She was never punished in the school system."
The criminal-defense attorney said the intentof juvenile-offense confidentiality is to allowoffenders to begin life anew. "That's the purposeof treating juveniles different from adults," hesaid. "In the juvenile system you give themanother opportunity, another chance."
Burnham said Grant did not act alone inchecking "no" to the discipline question.
"She didn't consult with legal experts inrespect to answering the question, [but] sheanswered the question armed with advice thatlawyers had given her at the time of the trialthat her juvenile records were sealed records,"Burnham said.
Burnham said that if Harvard officials did infact want Grant to indicate her past by checking"yes," the question was inappropriate. "If thequestion is to be interpreted as asking aboutinformation about a juvenile record, it is animproper question," she said.
Some legal experts agreed.
Charles Kindregan, co-author of a book onMassachusetts general practices in family law anda professor at Suffolk University, said, "Ingeneral, juvenile records are sealed because mostpeople in the profession feel that when a juvenilematter is over, it's over."
Most states have laws preventing employers fromdiscriminating against applicants on the basis ofpast crimes, especially ones they committed asjuveniles, Kindregan said.
Kindregan endorsed the advice Grant receivedthat Harvard had no right to either the results orthe existence of the sealed records.
"Most juvenile systems around the country aresimilar in this regard, in that they are intendedto give the juvenile another chance," theprofessor said.
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