Student Takes School Board to Court: Suspended for Saying ‘Illegal Aliens’

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A 16-year-old North Carolina student filed a federal suit against the Davidson County Board of Education, and Assistant Principal Eric Anderson. The case raises serious concerns about First Amendment rights. The lawsuit was filed after the school suspended him for using the words “illegal aliens” during class.

Christian McGhee is represented by the Liberty Justice Center and claims that Central Davidson High School’s suspension of Christian McGhee violates his constitutional right to freedom of speech and due procedure.

According to a Liberty Justice Center press release, the incident that led to the lawsuit took place on April 9, 2024, during a vocabulary lesson in English class.

Christian McGhee, a sophomore, raised his hand on April 9 and asked his English professor if her use of the word “aliens”, referred to illegal aliens or space aliens. Although there was not a significant disruption in the class, school officials decided to suspend Christian from school for three days, comparing his question to an egregious racial insult. Christian was also banned from participating in a season-defining track meet. There was no appeal allowed.\

Christian was ostracized, bullied, and threatened upon his return to school after being labeled as a racist. His parents, worried for his safety unenrolled him. He is now completing his semester via a homeschooling program.

One of McGhee’s classmates joked that he would “kick (McGhee’s a **.”. The teacher reported this exchange to the assistant principal, who brought both boys in for questioning. The classmate said he wasn’t offended, and that McGhee was just joking. The joke was deemed offensive by Assistant Principal Anderson, who suspended the student.

Leah McGhee was furious at the decision of the school, explaining that her son was raised to “reject racism in all forms.” She also claimed that the school was “the one that injected race in this incident.”

She added, “It seems that this administration prefers to destroy its reputation and that of my son than admit they have made a mistake.”

The Liberty Justice Center argued that the school’s action was a form of viewpoint discrimination. Buck Dougherty argued, as Senior Counsel for the organization, that “even though Christian asked a non-threatening, factual question about a word being discussed in class, the school board falsely accused him of racism.”

In a press release, the group cites the historic Supreme Court decision in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District as a way to support its case against the school. This ruling stated that students don’t “give up their constitutional right to freedom of expression or speech at the schoolhouse door.” This could be a problem for McGhee School.

The school punished a student because of their opinion of his political beliefs. It is clear that a school’s suspension was based on the simple use of the word “illegal alien”. Although his students may have been offended by the words he used, it was clear that suspending him for what appeared to be a harmless comment was an extreme reaction.

Not only was the suspension a ridiculous response, but blowing it up to such an issue has clearly caused even more harm to McGhee. The assistant principal essentially labeled him a racist for no valid reason. Coming from a member of the school’s leadership, his reaction could have contributed to the bullying and ostracization McGhee went through. If schools are allowed to get away with this conduct, the problem will only get worse. Hopefully, the court can clearly see what happened here and give the appropriate ruling.