NC school suspends student who used term 'illegal alien' in classroom

A student raises his hand in class.
A student raises his hand in class. | iStock/fpphotobank

The family of a 16-year-old student who was reportedly suspended for using the phrase "illegal alien" when asking for clarification about an assignment is working with an attorney in hopes of removing the infraction from his record, fearing it could harm his future. 

As The Carolina Journal reported Monday, Leah McGhee's son Christian attends Central Davidson High School in North Carolina, part of the Davidson County Schools system. 

According to an email sent to local officials and shared with the outlet, the school suspended the student for three days after a young man in the teenager's English class became offended at the use of the word "illegal alien." 

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McGhee used the term after the teacher issued a vocabulary assignment that used the word "alien," prompting the teenager to ask, "Like space aliens or illegal aliens without green cards?"

The student who took offense reportedly threatened to fight McGhee's son, and the teacher called the assistant principal, according to The Carolina Journal. The administration later determined McGhee's conduct was disrespectful to Hispanic students, and he was suspended for three days.

"I didn't make a statement directed towards anyone; I asked a question," the student reportedly told the outlet. "I wasn't speaking of Hispanics because everyone from other countries needs green cards, and the term 'illegal alien' is an actual term that I hear on the news and can find in the dictionary."

The McGhee family sought help from an attorney to have the incident removed from the teenager's record.

The high school student participates in various school clubs, including cross country and track, and is trying to secure an athletic scholarship for college, according to the report.

"Because of his question, our son was disciplined and given THREE days OUT of school suspension for 'racism,'" Leah McGhee is quoted as saying. "He is devastated and concerned that the racism label on his school record will harm his future goal of receiving a track scholarship. We are concerned that he will fall behind in his classes due to being absent for three consecutive days." 

According to the mother, the school's assistant principal has refused to remove the suspension from her son's record.

Davidson County Schools and Central Davidson High School did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's request for comment. 

In response to a Tuesday email from Newsweek, a Central Davidson High School staff member said federal student privacy protections prohibit the faculty from discussing the student.

"Please know that Davidson County Schools administrators take all discipline incidents seriously and investigate each one thoroughly," the staff member said in the statement. "Any violation of the code of conduct is handled appropriately by administrators."

According to the student handbook, a student must have an "informal hearing" with the principal before the school can issue a short-term suspension. During the hearing, students are informed of the accusations against them, and they have the chance to make statements in their defense.

As the handbook explains, the purpose of the procedures for suspensions is to "ensure that any student who is to be suspended is afforded due process of law."

"The principal may impose a short-term suspension without first providing the student with an opportunity for a hearing if the presence of the student (1) creates a direct and immediate threat to the safety of other students or staff or (2) substantially disrupts or interferes with the education of other students or the maintenance of discipline at the school," the handbook states. "In such cases, the principal shall give the student notice of the charges and an opportunity for an informal hearing as soon as practicable."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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