The National Desk

Family Sues NC School Board, Says Son Was Suspended for Using Term ‘Illegal Aliens’

May 7, 2024

(The National Desk)—A North Carolina family sued their local school board on Tuesday after their son was allegedly suspended for his use of the word “alien.”

Central Davidson High School issued a three-day, out-of-school suspension to the 16-year-old student last month after he asked for clarification on a vocabulary assignment in which his teacher gave him the term “alien,” according to his mother, Leah McGhee. The student purportedly asked his teacher, “like, space aliens or illegal aliens without green cards?”

Central Davidson allegedly claimed the question was “racially insensitive.”

“Three days out of school suspension is a big deal, and it’s especially a big deal if you are marked and branded by your school as having made a racist comment,” Dean McGee, who represents the student with the Liberty Justice Center law firm, told Crisis in the Classroom. “It’s kind of hard to think of something worse to be on your permanent record as you’re applying to colleges, as you’re just going through life, as a kid in school.”

Following the student’s comment, his Hispanic classmate threatened to beat him up, according to McGhee. The suspended student refuted Central Davidson’s claim the question was disrespectful to Hispanic classmates.

“I didn’t make a statement directed towards anyone; I asked a question,” the student said, according to McGhee. “I wasn’t speaking of Hispanics because everyone from other countries need[s] green cards, and the term ‘illegal alien’ is an ACTUAL term that I hear on the news and can find in the dictionary.”

“This phrase, ‘illegal alien,’ is on its face racially neutral. The comment was not threatening. The boy in class was joking around with [the student] … and told the assistant principal that he wasn’t offended,” McGee said. “You had the administration sort of contriving a racial incident out of this.”

McGee argued Central Davidson violated the student’s rights to free speech, due process and education, which are all guaranteed under North Carolina law, by suspending him for the comment and denying his mother an appeal.

“The school explicitly told [the student] and his mother he was not allowed to appeal this decision, this was final. And that has due process problems on its face,” McGee said. “For the school to punish [the student] for racism—for a neutral comment—is a clear violation of his First Amendment rights. They kicked him out of school, depriving him of his rights to education… and that’s why we’re suing on his behalf.”

Central Davidson did not immediately return The National Desk’s request for comment.