The School of the Arts senior who used the “n word” in a tweet about a black classmate walked across the graduation stage last week, and the following day, her attorney filed a lawsuit against Charleston County School District.
Ashley Patrick contends the school district violated her due process rights in its appeal of her case to the Charleston County School Board, and she wants her school records purged of the intimidation charge. She also wants the district to reimburse her legal fees.
“The whole purpose of this request is to ask a judge to review the legality of the (Charleston County School District) administrative action to determine if they followed their own written procedures for prosecuting a disciplinary appeal,” said Dwayne Green, Patrick’s attorney. “The hope is that no other student has to go through this again.”
The controversy started with a tweet Patrick posted while at home in February. She wrote: “If Imani makes one more got damn remark in Roger’s class tomorrow ... (expletive) will drop.” Patrick posted a link to a picture of a young white girl squeezing her eyes shut and crossing her fingers. The text on the photo read “I wish a nigga would.”
Patrick was suspended for five days, and the district administration wanted to remove her from the School of the Arts and send her to Twilight, a computer-based alternative program for students who misbehave.
The constituent school board disagreed with the district’s recommendation and allowed Patrick to stay at School of the Arts on strict probation, which includes no extracurricular activities.
The district administration appealed the case to the county school board, which voted to uphold the constituent school board’s decision. The county board initially interpreted the constituent board’s decision to mean she couldn’t attend prom or graduation, but the board’s vice chairman later allowed Patrick to go to both. Patrick also will have to do 20 hours of community service and must write a 500-word essay on race and social media.
The target of her tweet was Imani Herring, who is the daughter of Lisa Herring, an associate superintendent who oversees the district’s behavior and discipline programs. Imani Herring has said Patrick’s tweet was a response to something she said in class with the teacher’s permission, but Patrick didn’t like it. Imani Herring has said the tweet hurt, insulted and threatened her, and that adults had forgotten about her.
John Emerson, the school district’s attorney, was aware of the lawsuit but did not have any comment Monday.
In the lawsuit, Green asks for a temporary restraining order against the school district so that Patrick will not have to do the essay and so that her transcript will not have the intimidation offense on it. He also asked for that hearing within 10 days.
Patrick’s case appeals the county school board’s decision, saying it did not have the authority to overrule the constituent school board and that its hearing was not properly noticed or held.
Patrick argues in the filing that Associate Superintendent Lou Martin, who oversees the district’s high schools, improperly categorized her offense to a more serious level to send a message to minority students, and the district’s appeal was wrong because it disregarded the conflicts of interest that were present.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or (843) 937-5546.