Emmett’s push for a second chance at school

We first met “Emmett” as a 12th grader shortly after his arrest at school for having a small amount of marijuana on him. As if an arrest for simple misbehavior weren’t destabilizing enough, his school was also pushing for expulsion.

Students and their families have the right to an attorney during an expulsion hearing—a fact that not every parent knows. The work of education lawyers, like Emmett’s LCCR attorney, Remi, is critically important to ensuring that these hearings are fair and follow the rules. Otherwise, children can be unfairly pushed out of school.

Remi went with Emmett and his family to his expulsion hearing. There, the school focused less on Emmett’s well-being and more on the minor allegation against him. While Emmett’s family tried their best to advocate on his behalf, nobody listened to them. Emmett’s father, his biggest supporter, was so distraught he walked out of the hearing. And in the end, Emmett was expelled.

Emmett was stunned. He is a good student – he had never gotten in any kind of trouble before and was doing well in all his classes. He couldn’t understand why his school was trying to throw him away.

The way Emmett’s school responded to his mistake was disappointing and damaging – but not unusual. There’s a startling disparity in how teen misbehavior is dealt with in schools with a whiter population versus those that are predominantly Black. Students in the former typically receive the benefit of age-appropriate accountability: call home to parents, after-school detention, not being allowed to go to a school dance. Black students, on the other hand, are significantly more likely to be suspended, expelled, and/or arrested for the very same misbehavior.

When the decision was handed down, Emmett’s family panicked. If Emmett’s expulsion stood, he would be forced to attend an alternative school on the East Bank, far from where the family lives. Worse, the alternative school doesn’t offer bussing, meaning Emmett would have had to navigate public transit on his own.

Emmett really wanted to stay at his school. Like every child, he wanted to be with his friends, in his classes, participating in his extracurriculars. Emmett also has a great deal of school pride – even after his school moved to expel him. He would meet with our staff frequently decked out in his school polo and sweatshirt, even outside of school hours when he didn’t have to.

Remi moved to appeal Emmett’s expulsion to a more senior school board member, explaining that because Emmett’s school had circumvented the rules dictating how and when expulsion hearings can take place, the legitimacy of the whole hearing was at stake. After all, even if an expulsion hearing isn’t held in a court, every child still has the right to a fair hearing.

While awaiting the results of the appeal, Emmett’s LCCR team maintained close contact with him and his family, talking to them regularly to make sure they were doing okay. Throughout the duration of the process, Emmett remained suspended from school. We checked in to ensure he was completing all the work he was assigned at home.

After an exhaustive appeal process, Emmett’s expulsion was overturned. He’s back in school, where he hasn’t had any new trouble. And because this was his first arrest, his court case was referred to diversion, a community-based alternative to incarceration program geared toward low-risk youth. His case is now headed toward closure.

Emmett is once again set to graduate in May and is already preparing for college in the fall. And now, when he wears his school clothes, he can do so with pride again.

Posted by Cadence Neenanon April 15, 2024and categorized as Awards, Client Story, Events, Featured, News, Reports, Uncategorized