SPLC sues after Montgomery students expelled during shooting probe

SPLC sues after Montgomery students expelled during shooting probe
Photos from a shooting on the campus of Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery, Alabama in February 2019. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A pair of lawsuits are being filed against the Montgomery County Board of Education on grounds that it violated the due process rights of two students.

The SPLC says its suits stem from the Feb. 2019 gymnasium shooting at MPS’s Robert E. Lee High School that led to the arrest of two friends who were seen on a recording exchanging a cell phone moments after the incident.

While the students were interrogated and charged with possessing a handgun, they were ultimately acquitted of criminal charges in Montgomery County Juvenile Court.

But during the nine-day period in which they were being held at a youth facility, the SPLC says the school board initiated disciplinary proceedings and expelled both from Lee High School.

The organization called that process, in which the students were not able to defend themselves, a violation of their 14th Amendment rights.

“Allegations of misconduct damage students’ educational and employment opportunities," said SPLC attorney Claire Sherburne. "This is why, 45 years ago today, the United States Supreme Court held that a student’s public education must be protected by due process to help ensure fair and just outcomes for students. When the juvenile court provided our clients with the opportunity to be heard and present evidence in their delinquency proceeding, they were acquitted; but when they were denied that right by the school board, they were expelled.”

The suits seek to reverse the expulsions, immediate reinstatements, corrections to the students’ academic records, reforms to the district’s policies, and compensation for the missed instructions.

The school system has yet to respond to requests for comment on the lawsuits.

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