In September 2014, a 12-year-old black boy in Glendale, Ohio, was suspended for “staring” at a white girl. Local news station Fox 19 reports that his parents filed a suit in the Hamilton County Common Pleas court to have the suspension removed from his record, citing a lack of due process. Yesterday, a judge refused to overturn the suspension.
The boy is a student at St. Gabriel Consolidated School, where the handbook states: “The principal is the final recourse in all disciplinary matters and may waive any and all rules at his/her discretion for just cause.” The school maintains that the one-day suspension was consistent with the handbook. The ACLU reports that schools are increasingly skipping due process when it comes to suspensions, and black students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers.
“The perception is he intimidated her,” his mother, Candice Tolbert, said. “My son stared at a girl who was engaged in a staring game. She giggled the entire time.”
The complaint shows that the girl went home and told her parents she “felt fearful,” which prompted them to contact the school. The boy was notified and promptly wrote an apology letter, which his parents say they didn’t learn about until the next day with the school contacted them about the matter. The letter read, in part:
I never knew she was scared because she was laughing…. I don’t want to be suspended anymore. This will be my last time intimidating someone…. I understand I done the wrong thing that will never happen again. I will start to think before I do so I am not in this situation.
When asked if they thought race played an issue in their son’s treatment, the Tolberts said they are focused on the school’s lack of consistency with regard to punishment. “The same girl that accused my son of this act of perception of intimidation, aggressively poured milk on someone else’s lunch. When she did that there was no penalties for that. She received nothing for that,” Tolbert said. They are considering an appeal.