The School of the Arts senior who used the “n word” in a tweet about a black classmate won’t be able to go to the prom or walk with her class on graduation day.
Ashley Patrick still will receive a diploma from School of the Arts, but she will have to complete 20 hours of community service and write a 500-word paper on racisim and social media.
Patrick was expressionless as she listened to the Charleston County School Board’s decision, and she walked out of the room in tears.
“(Walking with her class) was what she wanted, and that’s the one thing they want to take away from her,” said Dwayne Green, her attorney.
Five members of the Charleston County School Board agreed 4-1 today to uphold the North Charleston Constituent School Board’s decision, which was allowing Patrick to stay at School of the Arts until she graduates. The constituent school board put her on strict probation.
District officials said strict probation means no extracurricular activities, and graduation and prom are considered extracurriculuar activities. Patrick still will be a graduate of School of the Arts, even if she doesn’t participate in the actual ceremony.
County school board member Craig Ascue said Patrick had a lesson to learn, and this was part of it.
“There are worse things in life for a high school senior,” he said of Patrick being unable to walk at graduation.
Elizabeth Moffly was the lone vote against the majority.
The district refused to have an open board hearing today for Patrick, and that decision was “nonsense,” said Jay Bender, an attorney for the S.C. Press Association. The state Freedom of Information Act allows the subject of a hearing to ask that it be open, and Patrick requested that it be so.
“(The district’s) position makes it seems as though there is something to hide, which should not be the case for a publicly elected board,” Green said.
The school district’s attorney, John Emerson, said the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects student privacy, and state law doesn’t mention students when citing who can waive their rights to a private hearing.
“In any case, even if the student being disciplined wishes to waive their right to privacy, they cannot do so on behalf of other students who may be involved, and who are likely to be identified or identifiable by documents or statements made at the hearing,” Emerson said.
The school board will decide what should happen to Patrick. In February, she tweeted from her iPhone at home that if a junior in one of her classes “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 apologized and served a five-day suspension, but the district administrators want her removed from School of the Arts and sent to Twilight, a computer-based alternative program for misbehaving students. She would not be able to walk at graduation or go to the prom.
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