SPLC says judge unable to review Athens students’ lawsuits before graduation
ATHENS, Ala. – The Southern Poverty Law Center said Thursday afternoon that a judge did not have time to hold a hearing for two Athens High School students who were barred from attending graduation.
The SPLC filed two complaints Wednesday in Limestone County Juvenile Court in an effort to let the two students walk across the stage at the school’s graduation.
““It’s disappointing that the judge assigned to the cases did not have enough time to hear them today and provide the immediate, simple remedy our clients deserve in advance of Athens High School’s graduation tonight: the permission to attend and walk in celebration of their milestone accomplishment,” the center said in a news release. “We are proud to stand with our clients, and they have demonstrated courage through this difficult time. We will continue to advocate for our clients and other children across Alabama and the South who experience injustice.”
The students will instead have a public graduation ceremony on Friday at FreshWind Christian Fellowship.
The lawsuits filed Wednesday claim that the two seniors, who are black, were denied their due process rights. They also claim no one proved that the students violated the district’s code of conduct, and the city school board arbitrarily punished them by prohibiting them from participating in graduation.
The two students were punished after an incident in April that ended with police and students in a heated confrontation at school. One of the students’ parents also was arrested in the incident.
Athens City Schools declined to comment Wednesday on the lawsuits.