SPLC sues Athens City Schools over graduation for students arrested in brawl

SPLC sues Athens City Schools over graduation for students arrested in brawl

ATHENS, Ala. (WAFF) - The Southern Poverty Law Center is suing Athens City Schools in an effort to get two suspended students reinstated in time for Thursday’s graduation.

It all stems from a brawl at Athens High School in April involving students, a parent, and a school resource officer. Two students and a parent were arrested. Two seniors, Makaleb Boykin and Gabrielle Kirby, were arrested and subsequently suspended from school.

THE SPLC wants those two students to be allowed to walk during Thursday’s graduation. The legal complaint seeks an emergency hearing and expedited relief before the graduation ceremony.

The students were also barred from attending prom.

The complaint claims the board denied Kirby and Boykin of their due process rights, failed to prove that they violated the district’s student code of conduct, and abused its discretion by arbitrarily punishing them and prohibiting them from participating in their graduation ceremony.

The complaints were filed in the juvenile court of Limestone County.

"Graduating from high school is a once-in-a-lifetime event, a hugely significant moment for graduating seniors and the people who have supported them throughout the years,” said Brittany Barbee, attorney with the SPLC. “To deny any student such a momentous experience without an adequate evaluation process, leaving the decision to arbitrary discretion is a violation of the students’ due process rights. We hope the court will immediately reinstate the students and allow them to celebrate their graduation with their friends and family.”

“Students of color are disproportionately pushed out of our nation’s schools,” said Barbee. “School discipline cannot be arbitrary, and the policies must be clear and provide students with sufficient notice to conduct their behavior in order to meet those requirements,” said Barbee. “The Athens City School Board failed their own processes and failed the students. We seek immediate reinstatement of the students, so they can finish their high school experience.”

WAFF 48 News has reached out to Athens school superintendent Trey Holladay for comment.

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