Student Suspended for Using ‘Illegal Alien’ in Class Sues School District

May 7, 2024

(OutKick)—Merriam-Webster still has no problem with defining the word “aliens,” and one maligned North Carolina teen is trusting a judge won’t either.

Lawyers for Christian McGhee on Tuesday sued the Davidson County School District after the boy was suspended and subjected to racism accusations for asking a question in English class about the word “aliens.”

Specifically, the sixteen-year-old student was punished last month after he raised his hand and asked his English teacher, during a vocabulary lesson, if a reference to the word “aliens,” referred to “space aliens, or illegal aliens who need greencards,” according to the lawsuit filed by the Liberty Justice Center on behalf of the McGhee family.

After the question was asked, a Hispanic male student in the class joked that he was going to kick Christian’s ass before class “otherwise proceeded as normal” according to the filing.

Not ‘Upset’ or ‘Offended’

Following class, Christian and the other student were taken to the office an assistant principal, who questioned the two students and then proceeded to claim the other student was offended by Christian’s question. The Hispanic student said, according to the suit, that he was not “upset” or “offended.”

The school ultimately suspended McGhee, “even though there was no substantial disruption to the class,” his lawyers argue, while noting that school administrators equated McGhee’s question “to a vicious racial slur.”

The lawyers further claim that McGhee, having been “branded a racist by his school,” returned to classes and faced “ostracism, bullying and threats,” due to his question in English class. His parents ultimately decided to complete the school year by homeschooling the boy.

Dean McGee, Educational Freedom Attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, views this as a First Amendment and due process fight.

“The school branded this a racial incident independently. There’s nothing indicating it was. It was a completely neutral legal phrase. Everyone from the Supreme Court justices, to academics, to the actual U.S. code and judges in the very district where we’re filing use the term ‘aliens, ‘illegal aliens, green cards.’ These are common terms,” McGee told OutKick.

“The school’s stance seems to be this was offensive even if no one in class actually found it to be offensive.”

No Ability to Appeal

Faced with the inability to appeal his suspension, the high school sophomore was forced to miss a critical track event.

Lawyers believe their client wasn’t provided with the ability to defend himself, which they view as troubling because of what it might mean for other students and their ability to speak in class. They contend vague speech guidelines such as what Christian McGhee faced are bad news.

“Our client wasn’t trying to make any political point, wasn’t trying to be provacative,” McGee said. “If the school’s decision stands, any kid in any school could be scared just to ask a question in class like our client did.”

The lawsuit against the Davidson County School District asks for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina to clear Christian McGhee’s name and for damages to be determined at trial.

“I have raised our son to reject racism in all its forms, but it is the school, not Christian, that injected race into this incident,” Leah McGhee, the boy’s mother, said in a press release announcing the suit. “It appears that this administration would rather destroy its own reputation and the reputation of my son rather than admit they made a mistake.”

Monday night, at the Davidson County School Board meeting, Leah called for two board members to be removed because they are “corrupt.”

As a reminder, Merriam-Webster dictionary has yet to pull “illegal alien” from the dictionary. It’s still defined as “a foreign person who is living in a country without having official permission to live there.”

Soon, we’ll find out if a court is willing to stand by that definition and next to a boy’s right to use those words in an English class.