The former School of the Arts student who tweeted the N-word about a black classmate hasn’t written a 500-word punishment paper on racism and media, but Charleston County school officials are fighting to make her do it.
Ashley Patrick received a temporary restraining order from the Court of Common Pleas against the Charleston County School Board, meaning she didn’t have to follow any of the board’s discipline mandates. She was slated to present that paper to the board Monday, but the court order prevented that from happening.
A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday to consider whether that order should be continued. District officials want it lifted so she would have to fulfill the school board’s mandate and write the essay, but Patrick’s attorney, Dwayne Green, will argue for it to remain in place until a judge hears the case.
Craig Ascue, vice chairman of the school board, said it was important to the board that she complete that paper, and it should have been important to her.
“It’s disheartening,” Ascue said. “We wanted her to reflect on this whole ordeal. It’s sad that she hasn’t taken advantage of that opportunity do what was asked.”
Green said even if the injunction isn’t in place, the district doesn’t have the authority to make a non-student do anything, and the date she was supposed to present it has passed. Regardless, the school board didn’t have the authority to require her to write the paper, he said. Ascue disagreed, saying the board told Patrick to write the paper while still a student, and its ruling stands.
Patrick, who graduated earlier this month, tweeted from her iPhone at home that if junior Imani Herring “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.”
Green said Patrick apologized, and she completed her suspension and the constituent school board’s requirement of 20 hours of community service. She accepted and fulfilled the constituent school board’s punishment, but the county board didn’t have the authority to impose additional demands, he said.
After the Tweet, Patrick was suspended for five days. 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 included no extracurricular activities. It also required her to perform community service.
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 Ascue later allowed Patrick to go to both.
Patrick was granted a restraining order that reinstated the constituent school board’s decision, which meant she would have been allowed to go to prom and graduation, as well as receive her diploma and transcript.
All of that happened either before or since that filing. The court granted Patrick’s request to prevent “irreparable harm from being suffered” by her.
Patrick has sued the school district, asking for her records to be purged of the intimidation charge. She also wants the district to reimburse her legal fees.
In her lawsuit, Patrick argues the county school board didn’t have the authority to overrule the constituent school board and that its hearing wasn’t properly noticed. She also contends 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.
Green said Patrick was doing better since school ended, and she’s looking forward to college.
“She’s really happy to be moving forward with her life, but she knows this still needs to be resolved,” he said.
The target of her tweet, Imani Herring, is the daughter of Lisa Herring, who was promoted earlier this week to chief academic officer of Charleston County Schools.
Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.