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Student suspended for using term ‘illegal alien’ in English class

BRIANNA KRAEMER

Carolina Journal


A 16-year-old student at Central Davidson High School in Lexington, North Carolina was suspended for three days last week after using the term ‘illegal alien’ during a vocabulary assignment in his English class. 


Christian McGhee’s teacher assigned vocabulary words during class last Tuesday, including the word ‘alien.’ According to his mother, Leah McGhee, Christian responded to his teacher, asking, “Like space aliens or illegal aliens without green cards?” 


According to an email describing the incident, sent to local officials and shared with Carolina Journal, a young man in class took offense to Christian’s question and reportedly threatened to fight him, prompting the teacher to call in the assistant principal. Ultimately, Christian’s words were deemed by administrative staff to be offensive and disrespectful to classmates who are Hispanic.


“I didn’t make a statement directed towards anyone; I asked a question,” says Christian in response to his suspension. “I wasn’t speaking of Hispanics because everyone from other countries needs green cards, and the term “illegal alien” is an actual term that I hear on the news and can find in the dictionary.”


In addition to the three-day suspension, his record could be damaged as he aims to secure an athletic scholarship for college. He is actively involved in school clubs, track, and cross country.


“Because of his question, our son was disciplined and given THREE days OUT of school suspension for ‘racism,’” wrote Christian’s mother in the email. “Christian is devastated and concerned that the racism label on his school record will harm his future goal of receiving a track scholarship. We are concerned that he will fall behind in his classes due to being absent for three consecutive days.”


Leah said the assistant principal has so far refused to remove the infraction from Christian’s record. The family is working with an attorney to remedy the situation so it doesn’t harm Christian’s future, and they expect more developments in the days ahead.


Meanwhile, State Senator Steve Jarvis, R-Davidson, said he contacted the school district’s superintendent to make him aware of the situation. Jarvis told the Carolina Journal that while he informed top officials of the issue and urged officials to look for the best outcome, he did not take a stance on what they should do because he wasn’t there to understand all sides of the story. 


“I do not see that that would be an offensive statement, just in getting clarification,” said Jarvis. “But there again, I don’t know. I don’t know the situation of this particular incident.”


An official at Davidson County Schools said the district could not provide details on a student matter. The student handbook says that “schools may place restrictions on a student’s right to free speech when the speech is obscene, abusive, promoting illegal drug use, or is reasonably expected to cause a substantial disruption to the school day.”


State legislators have propelled school choice forward in North Carolina to give parents and students alternative education options. More than 72,000 applications flooded the Opportunity Scholarship program this February in record-breaking demand, and additional funds will likely expand the program’s budget due to the surging demand.

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