Davidson County School District has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 16-year-old Christian McGhee and his parents, alleging the school violated his right to free speech, due process, and education after the assistant principal issued him a three-day suspension for racism earlier this year.

The racism label was slapped onto Christian’s record for asking a clarifying question about a “space alien or illegal alien without a green card” during English class. The McGhee family sued the school and the assistant principal, and litigation remains ongoing. The assistant principal named in the lawsuit is reportedly no longer employed at Central Davidson High School.

In the motion to dismiss, the school argues that its policies are not in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Additionally, they argue that Christian’s due process rights were not violated because he was afforded a hearing prior to his suspension in compliance with state law and school policy. They say he was not entitled to appeal his short-term suspension under state law, which is something state Sen. Steve Jarvis is working to change. 

In a recent op-ed, Jarvis said a glaring issue Christian faced was no ability to appeal.

“Currently, long-term suspensions can be appealed, but there is no statutory right to appeal a short-term suspension, even though they can run up to 10 days,” Jarvis wrote. “If a student is being kicked out of school for two weeks, there should be an opportunity to push back.”

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The motion also argues that the plaintiffs failed to establish liability against the Davidson County School District Board of Education. They refer to a Monell claim, in which individuals can be sued, but a school district has additional protections. The 1978 Monell v. Department of Soc. Svcs case determined governmental entities, as opposed to governmental officials or employees, cannot be held liable automatically for the actions of its officials or agents in matters pertaining to violations of constitutional and statutory rights.

“Defendant Davidson County School District Board of Education respectfully requests that its Partial Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED AND that Plaintiff’s Second Cause of Action against Moving Defendant be DISMISSED with prejudice and for such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper,” the motion states. 

The Liberty Justice Center, the law firm representing the McGhee family, said the motion to dismiss is a standard practice and does not imply anything regarding the merits of the case. Addressing the assistant principal’s denial of the allegations, the firm said they stand by the facts in their original complaint, his notes on the suspension form, and the recording of the initial meeting between the McGhees and Mr. Anderson.

“The Board responded on Friday to Christian’s motion for a preliminary injunction. Some of the Board’s filings were redacted,” said LJC in a statement. “Once we can view those redacted filings and fully determine the Board’s position, we intend to file a reply brief this month in support of a preliminary injunction from the Court on or before August 1, ordering the Board to reverse Christian’s unlawful school suspension and remove the suspension documents from his record.”

In a recent interview with the Carolina Journal, Christian’s mother, Leah McGhee, said they never wanted the situation to turn into a lawsuit. Rather, they wanted to resolve the issue with school officials, but board members never responded to multiple emails.

“It could have been settled in the classroom as a teachable moment, but here we are with a lawsuit that no one ever wanted,” Leah McGhee explained. “We are praying that this is settled out of court.”

Christian will be a junior this fall, but he will not return to Central Davidson. He finished the school year in a homeschool program, and his parents are still determining where they will send him to complete his final two years of school. 

“Looking ahead, he’ll have to go to a new school. Chad and I have agreed that it’s not in Christian’s best interest to return to Central Davidson High School,” Leah added. “We love where we live. It’s just the Board leaders aren’t a great group of people but the public has the authority to change that.”