National anti-discrimination group involved in Tallahassee school discipline case

“They have shown no concern for the welfare of my child,” said the child’s mother.

Tallahassee Democrat | By Ana Goñi-Lessan | November 1, 2022

A national anti-discrimination group is now involved in a discipline case at a Leon County charter school.

A lawyer from the Southern Poverty Law Center is representing the parents of a child who they say was wrongfully expelled from Florida State University School.

“I think that the administration response has been…completely disproportionate, and it has escalated this issue terribly,” said Cecilia Chouhy, the child’s mother. “They have shown no concern for the welfare of my child.”

Chouhy said in October the school issued a “withdrawal without invitation,” which means he’s been removed from the school and not allowed back.

The parents appealed the decision, and at a private hearing between the school and the child’s parents on Oct. 28, the school did not make a final decision.

The superintendent of FSUS, Stacy Chambers, provided the Democrat with a statement:

“Florida State University Schools is committed to providing a positive and safe environment for all. This matter is currently under review and school administrators are working with the family. We are unable to comment further due to state and federal privacy laws.”

The parents said the school unfairly disciplined their 6-year-old son, who they say does not have a disciplinary record, after he threw a temper tantrum and allegedly hit a teacher after he took away the child’s Pokémon card.

The school allegedly told the parents and their son, who are Latino, that administrators contacted law enforcement and that the child could be charged with a felony for the incident.

Florida law, however, prohibits arrests of children younger than 7 years, except for felonies such as murder or manslaughter.

“A 6-year-old child allegedly had a tantrum and the school entrusted to his care and education failed to act appropriately before, during and after this occurred,” said SPLC Senior Attorney Abel Delgado. “The school’s response to a child’s alleged behavior has been unhelpful, unnecessary, and unlawful.”  

In the United States, Black and Latino children are disciplined disproportionately compared to their white peers, and 1 in 5 Latino boys are suspended before they enter high school, according to a Brookings Institute analysis.

In Leon County, Hispanic students made up 6.2% of out-of-school suspensions in the 2020-2021 school year, according to Florida Department of Education dataSix percent of Leon County Schools’ students are Hispanic.

In Leon County Schools, approximately 44% of students are Black, and 42% are white. However, during the 2020-2021 school year, Black students were three times more likely to get an out-of-school suspension than their white counterparts, according to DOE’s suspension data.

FSUS is a charter school and is ranked the No. 102 school in the state, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school houses 678 students between kindergarten and 12th grade.

Chouhy, who is a criminology professor at FSU, said a family friend contacted the SPLC on their behalf.

The parents not only want their child to return to his first grade class, but for his school to implement training for teachers and staff on behavioral interventions and de-escalation. 

“We hope, nevertheless, that Dr. Chambers makes the right decision and allows the child to return to school so he can continue his education and this doesn’t happen to other students in the future,” Delgado said.

Read the appeal below:


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