Tuesday, June 11, 2013

CCSD's Self-Created Lawsuit

It started with a Tweet, a truly insensitive and juvenile one to be sure. The Tweeter was white; its target, black. For Tweeting the n-word to her classmate, School of the Arts senior Ashley Patrick served a five-day suspension.

Seems straightforward so far, doesn't it? But then district administration got involved. Patrick was sentenced to finish her senior year at Twilight, a computer-based district program for serious offenders. Put Patrick with those out on bail and/or violently disrupting the classroom.  

Maybe her continued presence in her classes would be disruptive, maybe not. Apparently the majority black constituent board didn't think so. Its considered decision was to institute strict probation limiting extracurricular activities.

District administration (notice we don't have a name yet) rejected the advice of the constituent board, appealing it to the CCSD Board of Trustees. Needless to say, the matter was discussed behind closed doors. The Board upheld the constituent board's decision, unwisely interpreting that Patrick would also not "walk the stage" at graduation or go to the prom. This interpretation later was dropped, but Patrick must serve 20 hours of community service and write an essay,

Really, the penalties for the Tweet are not the problem. No, the problem is conflict of interest on the part of district administration. The target of the Tweet just happened to be the daughter of Associate Superintendent Lisa Herring, who oversees CCSD's behavior and discipline programs. Did Associate Superintendent Lou Marten reclassify Patrick's offense to a more serious level because of Herring's position? Did Herring recuse herself because her daughter was involved?

Could CCSD have avoided another costly lawsuit? The plot thickens as Patrick's attorney is the husband of former CCSD Board member Toya Hampton-Green and a protege of Mayor.Riley.

You can't make this stuff up.


Clisby said...

I disagree that the penalties aren't the problem (although they don't appear to be the issue in the lawsuit.)

The penalties would have been fine had the older girl done this while at school. Is CCSD claiming that it has jurisdiction over its students at all times/places? Maybe I missed it, but I don't see that in the Code of Conduct posted on the CCSD website. If students can be suspended for non-criminal conduct that occurs completely outside of school, CCSD needs to make that crystal clear (after checking with a good lawyer - I question whether it's legal.)

Also, you might think it's a nitpick, but I don't think it's correct to say that Ashley Patrick tweeted the n-word to her classmate. Granted, the only information I have on the case came from the P-C; but if the newspaper's coverage is accurate, there's no indication she even knew the younger girl would see the tweet (i.e., she just tweeted it; she didn't direct it to any particular person.) It's like the difference between my posting something on my facebook page and in sending a facebook message to an individual.

Babbie said...

I agree about the nitpick, although I suspect Ashley had no idea Imani would see (or hear) about it--stupid, obviously. Most school districts seem to have some rules about posting in social media, even when not done at school (especially when directed at the school or teachers. Wasn't a son of one school board member (can't remember her name) disciplined for that several years ago? I'll be surprised if there's no stated policy.

Alex Peronneau said...

What about the student's right to due process? When a constituent board makes a ruling and the parties involved don't object or appeal, what justifies the superintendent arbitrarily overturning the constituent board's original decision? What about double jeopardy? Who authorized Lou Martin going beyond the constituent board's original suspension by extending it from 5 days to more than 10? Why did the county board agree to hear the superintendent's appeal in the first place or accept the opinion of the superintendent's attorney that the case couldn't be heard in open session, in spite of the student's request to have an open hearing? There are several CCSD policies that were violated here and I'll give you a hint about which ones. None of them involved what the student did or didn't do.

Babbie said...

Maybe the newer board members will learn not to follow McGinley's lead blindly!

Babbie said...

Maybe the newer board members will learn not to follow McGinley's lead blindly!