TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is challenging a decision by Florida State University Schools, a K-12 public charter school, to involuntarily withdraw a 6-year-old Latino student in violation of his due process rights.
On October 14, the SPLC appealed the school’s decision and requested a formal hearing on behalf of the student and his parents. The hearing is set for October 28.
The 6-year-old was placed on administrative leave by the school without a hearing after he allegedly threw a tantrum and hit his physical education teacher, an adult man, for taking a Pokémon card from him. School officials said that he could be charged with a felony for the incident even though Florida law prohibits arrests of children younger than seven years of age, except for forcible felonies such as murder or manslaughter.
The student’s mother, Cecilia Chouhy, is a tenured professor of criminology at Florida State University.
“The school’s actions are disappointing on many levels,” said Chouhy. “As a member of the FSU community, I expected that sending my son to a school that is part of this great institution would give me reassurance and confidence. Unfortunately, the opposite seems to be true. Schools should be a place of support for students and their families; instead, this experience has been one of exclusion.”
Before the incident, the student reported being bullied by his classmates. When Chouhy shared her concerns with a teacher, she received no response. The school also has not responded to the parents’ request for evaluative testing and support services to determine if the child has disabilities that may be impacting his learning.
Charter schools are widely known for cherry-picking and pushing out students, like English language learners and students with disabilities, who may impact their test scores.
Through the appeal process, the parents seek reversal of the school’s decision to withdraw the student and allow him to resume school in a different first grade classroom. They also request an evaluation for special education services, and a thorough review of the school’s policies and procedures to ensure future incidents are handled fairly and with respect to students’ due process rights.
“A 6-year-old child allegedly had a tantrum and the school entrusted to his care and education failed to act appropriately before, during and after this occurred,” said SPLC Senior Attorney Abel Delgado. “The school’s response to a child’s alleged behavior has been unhelpful, unnecessary, and unlawful.”