THE STATE OF
In The Court of Appeals
Jane Doe, by and through her legal guardian, and Robert Roe, by and through his legal guardian, Appellants,
School District 45 and Barnwell County Sheriff’s Department, Defendants,
Barnwell School District 45 is, Respondent.
James C. Williams, Jr., Circuit Court Judge
Opinion No. 4137
Heard June 6, 2006 – Filed July 17, 2006
REVERSED AND REMANDED
R. Bentz Kirby and Glenn Walters, both of Orangeburg, for Appellants.
Allen D. Smith, of
Columbia, for Respondent.
STILWELL, J.: Jane Doe and Robert Roe (the students) filed this action against
The students attended
The students claim one of the deputies “attempted to intimidate and humiliate [Roe] by screaming, insulting, threatening, and other inappropriate language.” The students’ parents were summoned to the school and informed their children had engaged in sexual activity while on school grounds. As a result, Doe’s parents took her to a hospital to undergo medical testing to determine if she had engaged in sexual intercourse. The medical examination determined Doe had never engaged in sexual intercourse. Although the principal initially threatened the students with expulsion or ten days suspension, she ultimately suspended them for only five days. The students appealed the principal’s decision to the school board, which upheld the suspension.
The students then filed this action. As to the district, the students alleged the principal failed to protect them and the district failed to properly train and supervise the principal and resource officers. The trial court dismissed the suit against the district for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because it found the students were attempting to “circumvent the prohibition against appealing short-term student suspensions . . . .”
STANDARD OF REVIEW
“[S]ubject matter jurisdiction is a question of law for the court.”
Murphy v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 346 S.C. 37, 43, 550 S.E.2d 589, 592 (Ct. App. 2001), overruled on other grounds by Farmer v. Monsanto Corp., 353 S.C. 553, 579 S.E.2d 325 (2003). Questions of law may be decided with no particular deference to the trial court. Moriarty v.
The students, contending their suit is based on gross negligence arising from the interrogation, argue the trial court erred in finding the lawsuit pertained to a school suspension and dismissing the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We agree.
“Subject matter jurisdiction is the power to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings in question belong.” Eagle Container Co. v. County of Newberry, 366 S.C. 611, 633-34, 622 S.E.2d 733, 744 (Ct. App. 2005) (citation omitted). In
Byrd v. Irmo High School, the supreme court found that
The trial court agreed with the district’s contention that the single reference in the claim to section 59-19-560 of the South Carolina Code as the basis for the trial court’s jurisdiction justifies characterizing the entire action as a challenge of the temporary suspensions. Although this section appears to give the circuit court jurisdiction over appeals of suspensions, the court in Byrd found that the more recently enacted, specific statute, section 59-63-230, essentially superseded section 59-19-560 by providing for appeal to the board of trustees. See Byrd, 321 S.C. at 434-35, 468 S.E.2d at 866; S.C. Code Ann. § 59-63-230 (2004). Therefore, if this were solely an appeal of the suspension, the circuit court would lack jurisdiction.
In construing a complaint, however, the court must review the entire pleading. Smith v. Nelson, 83 S.C. 294, 300, 65 S.E. 261, 263 (1909) (construing the “complaint upon the whole”). A review of the complaint as a whole in this case does not support the district’s argument that the students brought this action to appeal suspensions. See Rule 8(f), SCRCP (providing that all pleadings must be construed to do substantial justice to all parties);
Gaskins v. S. Farm Bureau Cas. Ins.
We find the trial court erred in dismissing the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based solely on a finding that the action was an attempt to appeal short-term suspensions. Accordingly, the order of the trial court is
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
HUFF and BEATTY, JJ., concur.
 The names of the minor plaintiffs have been changed and the names of their guardians have been redacted to protect the minors’ identities.
 The facts related here are as alleged in the complaint.
 The district contends the students were engaged in inappropriate sexual activity.
 Additionally, the students claim the trial court erred in failing to allow them to amend the complaint to remove a paragraph referencing S.C. Code Ann. § 59-19-560 (Rev. 2004). Because we determine the trial court had jurisdiction over the complaint as it was written, determining whether the students should have been allowed to amend is unnecessary.
 Section 59-19-560 provides: “Any party aggrieved by the order of the county board of education shall have the right to appeal to the court of common pleas . . . .” S.C. Code Ann. § 59-19-560 (Rev. 2004).
 At oral argument, the issue of the ultimate viability of this action was briefly mentioned. We venture no opinion on the merits of this action.