Student expelled for carrying knife can continue lawsuit against Colonial School District

By John Breslin | Jul 2, 2018

PHILADELPHIA - The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled on May 23 that a lawsuit filed on behalf of a student suspended, then expelled, by Colonial School District after he was found to be carrying a knife can proceed in federal court.

The parents of the student, who was expelled from school during the 2016-2017 school year, when he was in 11th grade, claim school district staff failed to adequately deal with his learning problems and denied him due process before he was expelled.

The ruling said the school district tried to have four of the five counts in the complaint dismissed, but the district court said Colonial's argument that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim would not stand up to scrutiny.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg said the plaintiffs' complaint states that the student's disability "substantially limits several of his major life activities, including learning, reading, concentrating, thinking and communicating," despite the fact that the district claimed that the disability was not mentioned.

U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg

The plaintiffs alleged in their lawsuit that the school district did not adequately address these issues, so the expulsion should not be upheld.

In addition, the lawsuit claims the student had a job in a body shop, requiring him to carry a pocket knife.

The plaintiffs claimed the student forgot that the knife was in the pocket of his jeans, and he wore the same pants to school the next day.

When the student was searched by a security guard suspicious of his interaction with another student, the knife was found.

According to the ruling, the student was suspended for 10 days, but, after returning to school, he and his mother were told that he was expelled. He has not returned to the school since, the filing said.

After reviewing "the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, I conclude that he has plausibly pled a claim," Goldberg said in his ruling.

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