Fighting for Free Speech: The Liberty Justice Center Sues North Carolina School Board for Wrongly Suspending Student for Question About “Aliens Who Need Green Cards”

May 7, 2024

On May 7, the Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit against the Davidson County Board of Education on behalf of Christian McGhee, a sixteen-year-old student whose question about the word “aliens” in English class led to a harsh suspension and false accusations of racism by his own school.

On April 9, sophomore Christian McGhee raised his hand and asked his English teacher whether her reference to the word “aliens” referred to “space aliens, or illegal aliens who need green cards?” Although there was no substantial disruption to the class, the school decided to suspend Christian for three days out of school, with the administration equating his question to a vicious racial slur. Christian was also prohibited from competing in a season-defining track meet. No appeal was permitted.

Having been branded as a racist by his school, Christian’s return was met with ostracism, bullying, and threats. Concerned for his safety, his parents unenrolled him and he is now completing the semester through a homeschooling program.

The Liberty Justice Center is suing the school board on behalf of Christian and his family for violating his rights to free speech, education, and due process. The lawsuit argues that the school board had no legal justification to suspend Christian because his comment was protected speech under the First Amendment. The lawsuit also seeks to remove the suspension from Christian’s academic record.

“Even though Christian asked a factual, non-threatening question—about a word the class was discussing—the school board branded him with false accusations of racism,” said Buck Dougherty, Senior Counsel at the Liberty Justice Center. “The school has not only violated his constitutional right to free speech, but also his right to due process and his right to access education, a guaranteed right under North Carolina law. We are proud to stand beside Christian and his family in challenging this egregious violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”

“School officials have effectively fabricated a racial incident out of thin air and branded our client as a racist without even giving him an opportunity to appeal. Fortunately, young people do not shed their First Amendment rights at school, and we look forward to vindicating Christian’s rights here.” said Dean McGee, Educational Freedom Attorney at the Liberty Justice Center.

“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. It appears that this administration would rather destroy its own reputation and the reputation of my son rather than admit they made a mistake,” said Leah McGhee, Christian’s mother.

C.M. v. Davidson County Board of Education was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina on May 7, 2024.

The Liberty Justice Center’s legal filings in C.M. v. Davidson County Board of Education are available here.

Raleigh-based attorneys Troy Shelton and Craig Schauer served as local counsel to file the case with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.


For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact us.