Legislators in the North Carolina General Assembly are expected to consider a new statute that would expand a student’s ability to appeal school suspensions. The effort follows national outrage over a North Carolina public school suspending a student for saying the word ‘illegal alien.’

Central Davidson High School suspended sophomore Christian McGhee for three days in April without the opportunity to appeal for asking, “Like space aliens or illegal aliens without green cards?” Administrative staff deemed his words offensive and disrespectful to Hispanic classmates. School policy says that any suspension under 10 days is not eligible for appeal.

“I cannot appeal this suspension since it is less than 10 days. Racism is only a three-day suspension with no appeal when it should be a top-tier punishment,” his mother, Leah McGhee, told the Davidson County School Board.

While a lawsuit is underway that alleges the county Board of Education violated Christian’s rights to free speech, education, and due process, a state legislator is taking additional steps to alter North Carolina law.

SEE ALSO: Lawsuit filed against NC school board for ‘illegal alien’ suspension controversy

State Sen. Steve Jarvis, R-Davidson, represents the McGhees’ district in the General Assembly and has been in communication with the family. Jarvis told the Carolina Journal that he was shocked when he found out through the McGhees’ situation that suspensions under 10 days cannot be appealed. Together, they are working to ensure that short-term school suspensions can’t continue without appeal.

Jarvis is working with legal staff at the General Assembly to provide a solution for similar situations in the future. Drafted language is underway that aims to outline an appeal process that includes requiring the principal or designee to give a detailed written report or eyewitness report of what happened. If there is a suspension, schools would be required to provide a detailed report of the code that was violated and a detailed report of how the Code of Conduct Code was violated. Students would be able to appeal to at least the school board or the superintendent, though the current draft only permits appeals for suspensions five days or longer.

“We’ve got to do what we can to get something. At least it will get the conversation started,” said Jarvis, explaining that it may not go as far as some would like. “I’m sure it will go through different versions from here.”

The rule would be added as a Proposed Committee Substitute to an existing bill, which will be discussed by the Senate Committee on Education/Higher Education during this Wednesday’s meeting. Leah McGhee plans to travel to Raleigh to speak in front of legislators on behalf of the proposal.

Robert Luebke, Director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation, said common sense has disappeared from Davidson County Schools, and it’s time to restore it.

“Shame on the Davidson County School Board and the principal of Central Davidson High School.  Their silence and stonewalling have now made a tempest out of a teapot,” Luebke said. “If it takes the legislature getting involved to grant any accused student a right of appeal for a brief suspension, so be it. School administrators should not be allowed to be judge and jury.”

Leah McGhee told the Carolina Journal that no family deserves to go through “absolute hell,” as her family has endured for the past seven weeks. While the policy will not impact Christian’s suspension, she says it’s needed so that a similar circumstance never happens again. 

The board’s final meeting before school’s out for the summer is scheduled for Monday evening, in which members of the public, including Leah McGhee, are expected to speak directly to the board again.

The story garnered national attention from high-profile figures like Elon Musk and Donald Trump, who wrote Christian a letter of recommendation and invited him to a campaign rally in North Carolina.