Sophie B. Wright Charter School filed a motion Monday, May 6, to move a case filed by one its students to federal court. The school’s attorney, Tracie Washington, filed notice as the student, her parents, lawyer and other supporters were set for a hearing at the Orleans Civil District Court.
Lyric Fernandez, an 18-year-old senior, alleged in the April 26 complaint that the Uptown public charter school denied her due process when it determined its punishment for a senior prank.
The school had suspended about 30 students for five days after a water fight injured a teacher and another student, according to a statement from the school. Sophie B. Wright administration officials also revoked their senior privileges, such as walking for graduation, senior prom and senior picnic.
After community pressure, including an 11,000-signature petition initiated by the education activist group Our Voice Nuestra Voz, the school rescinded the suspensions and allowed all but seven of the students to walk for graduation. Fernandez is one of those students.
Fernandez’s lawyer says federal court can take more than 30 days to hold a hearing and send it back to the district court, which would be past Sophie B. Wright’s graduation date of May 13.
“If this gets removed to federal court, and the TRO (temporary restraining order) is not granted in federal court, Ms. Fernandez is not going to walk,” said Fernandez’s attorney Macy Lauren Ledet in a press release. “And they know this. This was a stall tactic.”
Sophie B. Wright officials explained their actions in a written statement issued Monday:
“First, Sophie B. Wright was not served with this lawsuit until Friday afternoon, with a hearing set for 9 a.m. today; this despite the fact Ms. Fernandez’ attorney has all of my contact information.
“Second, Defendants removed this case to federal court because Lyric Fernandez claims her federal rights have been violated, under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
“Regardless, the plaintiff is seeking court intervention because she forfeited her senior privileges of attending prom, the senior class picnic, and participation in the graduation ceremony. She was not entitled to any of those privileges by right, and misconduct has consequences.”
For Fernandez’s father, the graduation ceremony is a privilege his daughter earned. “This is just a moment I want to see with my child. That’s it,” he said. “All this over a water fight.”