The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a pair of lawsuits against the Montgomery County Board of Education, alleging that the district violated two students’ rights to due process before expelling them.
The SPLC says two students were unjustly expelled after a shooting at Robert E. Lee High School in February 2019 where a 17-year-old boy was shot inside the school’s gym.
The two students were interrogated, arrested and charged with possession of a handgun. The students were acquitted of criminal charges following a delinquency hearing in the Montgomery County Juvenile Court.
Immediately after their arrest, the students were detained at the Montgomery County Youth Detention Facility for nine days. The school board held disciplinary proceedings for each student while they were detained, leaving them unable to attend the proceedings. The decision was made to expel the students, even after they had been acquitted of all charges.
According to a release from SPLC, the lawsuits state that the Montgomery County Board of Education violated the law by denying the students due process during their disciplinary proceedings and relying upon “insufficient evidence to render its decision.” It also states that the school board failed to comply with its own disciplinary process and policies.
“Children have rights, and those rights do not end when they enter a school setting,” said SPLC attorney Brittany Barbee in the statement. “Due process is about getting to the truth of what happened so that students are not unfairly pushed out of their classrooms or otherwise punished. These lawsuits reveal an unacceptable pattern across Alabama in which school districts needlessly trample on the rights of its students and contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline.”
The pair of suits seek a court order reversing the school board’s decisions, immediately reinstating the two students in Montgomery Public Schools (MPS) and a correction to their academic records. The students also want the school district to reform its disciplinary policies and practices and compensate them for missed instruction during the over 10 months they have missed since being expelled.