Parent sues district over dress code, trespass notice - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Parent sues district over dress code, trespass notice

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One Sumter parent filed a lawsuit against a middle school after he said his son was bullied by school administration and given in-school suspension, while also placing the plaintiff on trespass notice.

Charles Smith filed a civil lawsuit March 1 against Sumter School District and three employees at Furman Middle School: Maria Newton-Ta-Bon, Jeffrey Barrineau and Dr. Gregory Jones.

Smith said his child was first approached during the recent fall semester and told by Newton-Ta-Bon that he couldn't wear a fleece black jacket that had the brand "Columbia" written on it. On Dec. 4, the child was approached again by principal Newton-Ta-Bon and told the jacket was a violation. When the minor child told the principal to contact his father, the principal allegedly refused to do so and instead sent the child to an administrative staff person in the school.

"I looked at it, and it met dress code from what I could see," said Smith.

The child was placed on in-school suspension, so Dec. 5, Smith took his child to the Sumter School District office wearing the jacket. Smith was allegedly told by two district personnel that they did not see how the jacket was a violation and said they would speak to Newton-Ta-Bon. The school district office staff scheduled a conference for the next day between Smith and the principal, but Newton-Ta-Bon canceled the appointment.  

After this, Smith passed out petitions on school grounds the following day requesting the principal be removed from Furman Middle School. While he was passing out the information, Smith was approached by Jones, who is the assistant principal, stating that Smith was causing a disturbance on school grounds.

About two weeks later on Dec. 19, Smith arranged to pick up his son early from school leading into the winter break. When he arrived at the school, his child was detained in class and the school administrative staff would not release his son from school. Administration said Smith was violating a trespass notice, which he said he never received. Smith left the building and called the Sumter County Sheriff's Office from his cell phone. Meanwhile, school staff also called the sheriff's office to report Smith was causing a disturbance.

The trespass notice was dated Dec. 12 and was then given to Smith on Dec. 19 by the deputy at the school. From this point on, Smith had to drop his son off for school away from school property, causing his son to walk through traffic. Smith's son then got into trouble based on the sneakers he was wearing, which were half black and half gray in color.

Smith then withdrew his child from Furman Middle School, at which time, he found that the school expunged the Dec. 4 in-school suspension from his son's record.

So why is Smith filing a lawsuit?

"I was hoping it would maybe change their ways to the way they treated kids," said Smith. "Maybe it would start a new process for them."

On Monday, the Sumter School District could not comment on the lawsuit, but did say their uniform policy was updated in October.

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