A federal lawsuit filed claims South Carolina’s “disturbing schools” law sweeps into the court system “a broad swath of adolescent behavior,” violating students’ rights to due process.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on behalf of several students, the New York Times reports. The suit challenges a law that makes it a crime “to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school” or “to act in an obnoxious manner.”More than 1,200 students are arrested under the law each year, the Times reported. The ACLU alleges in its complaint that in the 2014-2015 school year, black students were nearly four times as likely as white students to be referred for charges under this law.
University of South Carolina law professor Josh Gupta-Kagan told the Times that about 18 states have laws barring school disruption, but most target outsiders or are more precise in defining prohibited acts.One of the plaintiffs in the ACLU suit is 18-year-old Niya Kenny, a classmate of a high school student shown last October in a viral video of a black student being dragged from her desk by a police officer and slammed to the floor. The student thrown to the floor had refused to put away her cellphone and leave the classroom. Kenny cursed at the police officer, and was arrested along with the other student.
Kenny says she was humiliated and fearful after the incident, so she withdrew from school and obtained her G.E.D. The charge against her is still pending.