Federal judge to hear parent’s lawsuit on uniform policy - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Federal judge to hear parent’s lawsuit on uniform policy

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One parent's lawsuit against a Sumter middle school will now be heard in federal court after the school district claims that's the only way it will have an impartial jury.

Charles Smith filed a civil lawsuit in March against Furman Middle School's principal and two assistant principals, as well as the Sumter School District. The lawsuit stems from an ongoing issue between Smith, his son and school officials dealing with the uniform policy.

Court documents state the district removed the lawsuit from Sumter County court to federal court "to ensure a more impartial jury and because the plaintiff alleged violations by defendants of plaintiffs' federal, constitutional rights."

Smith claims in court records that his child was first approached during the recent fall semester and told by Principal Maria 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 the principal and told the jacket was a violation.

When the 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. The boy was placed on in-school suspension.

On December 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 the jacket as a violation.

The battle continued through December leading up to the school's winter break.

Smith was later put on trespass notice after school officials called police when he was passing out petitions on school grounds asking for the principal's removal. After facing extreme difficulty in getting his son to and from school, Smith withdrew his child from Furman Middle.

Smith filed the lawsuit with hopes that the issue he had with the school's policy won't continue for other parents and students.

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

The district denies all of Smith's allegations in the lawsuit.

"We think the questions raised in the complaint are local issues decided by the community in which the incidents occurred," said Stephanie Weissenstein, Smith's attorney. "But we're confident the claims we have raised will be equally well received in federal court."

The jury trial is scheduled for Nov. 6.

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