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Student suspended for saying ‘illegal alien’ when asking for clarification of assignment

Discipline write-up reads ‘made a racially insensitive comment’

A high school student in North Carolina was suspended for three days for saying “illegal alien” regarding an assignment for his English class.

The Carolina Journal reports that according to the student’s mother Leah McGhee, the 16-year-old boy asked the teacher to clarify what sort of “alien” the teacher meant on a vocabulary assignment: “Like space aliens or illegal aliens without green cards?”

A classmate of the student allegedly took offense at the question, and threatened to fight him.

Central Davidson High School Assistant Principal Eric Anderson allegedly said the question was “racially insensitive” and “disrespectful to Hispanic students.”

A copy of the discipline write-up notes McGhee’s son “made a racially insensitive comment […] about an alien ‘needing a green card.'”

Regarding his suspension, the boy said “I didn’t make a statement directed towards anyone; I asked a question. 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.”

 Eric Anderson`s profile pictureMcGhee said she wasn’t able to appeal the suspension as it was less than 10 days. But she wants it expunged from her son’s record as it may “damage” his chances at a track scholarship. So far, Anderson (pictured) has refused.

MORE: Student diversity officials promise impeachment of VP who wrote ‘illegal aliens’

“I feel that the negligence of the administration’s decision has fueled the injustice of suspension for a student who simply asked for clarification to a teacher’s instructions,” McGhee said.

The National Desk notes McGhee has retained an attorney.

From the Carolina Journal piece:

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.”

According to his staff page, A.P. Anderson spent most of his career as a middle school math teacher and was a swim coach at Pfeiffer University. His note to parents says “I look to become a part of the Spartan Family, support your children in anything they do …”

MORE: NC State broadcaster suspended indefinitely for saying ‘illegal aliens’ during broadcast

IMAGES: Julio Murillo/X; Central Davidson HS

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.