Miss. District Seeks to Keep Student Suspended

SHELIA BYRD | Associated Press Writer

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The DeSoto County Public School District has asked a federal judge to reject the ACLU's request to lift the indefinite suspension of a student who was accused of using gang signs during a school assembly.

The American Civil Liberties Union and its Mississippi chapter filed suit last month in U.S. District Court on behalf of the ninth grader, identified only as A.S. The suit claimed a violation of the student's constitutional rights.

The 15-year-old black student was suspended indefinitely from Olive Branch High School on the first day of class Aug. 10, after being accused of "throwing gang signs." The ACLU contends the student was quietly singing to himself while bopping his head and thumping his feet.

The ACLU wants the student to return to classes at the school.

"We're trying to put a halt on the use of the policy until we can resolve the prosecutional issues," ACLU attorney Kristy L. Bennett said Thursday.

The case is before U.S. District W. Allen Pepper.

In court papers filed this week, the district contended Officer Doug Stanek, a school resource officer, had told school officials the youth flashed a sign known as "stacking." Stanek said the sign is associated with the Gangster Disciples.

The district contends the teenager flashed the sign just as Assistant Principal Mike Murphy was discussing the school's anti-gang policy .

The court documents said the district based its suspension decision on Stanek's information and four written statements – one by a teacher and three by students.

The student is now enrolled in the district's alternative school program, Alpha and Omega, and is eligible to return to the high school during the second semester of the current school year, according to court documents.

The ACLU has claimed the student was targeted because he was one of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the district in April. That suit alleged six minority students were assaulted by school resource officers and discriminated against by officers and school officials following an argument on an alternative school bus.

The suit was settled, but the terms were not disclosed.

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