/  04.02.2022

A Maryland high school student was suspended late last year because her school’s administrators said she wore blackface.

Now, the Severna Park High School student’s parents are suing the school district for $4 million, stating that their daughter was actually wearing gold paint on her face at the time. They say the Anne Arundel County school violated their daughter’s First Amendment rights.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the lawsuit against the Anne Arundel County Board of Education was filed in Baltimore’s U.S. District Court earlier this week. It claims the high school freshman was unfairly suspended for something that occurred off school grounds. The suit also states that Severna Park High School’s decision to uphold her suspension tarnished her reputation among her classmates.

The publication reports that the initial incident took place on a Saturday in October 2021. The girl, who is identified as K.H. in the court docs, took a photo of herself wearing the face paint and sent it to her friends.

Apparently, the controversial picture circulated throughout the school, and K.H. was suspended two days later when she returned to class.

Within the suit, K.H.’s parents said their daughter bought the gold paint and previously wore it to a pep rally for school spirit day. At the time, the high school did not penalize her for wearing it.

Court docs show the freshman girl was allegedly “subjected to cyberbullying, in-person bullying and exclusion from her friend groups” following her suspension.

The family’s lawyer Cole Sullivan wrote in the complaint that because the picture was taken while K.H. was not in school, and it didn’t directly mention Severna Park High, school officials were wrong to suspend his client.

Sullivan noted that the precedent was set in June 2021, when The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. case that a Pennsylvania school wrongly suspended a student from her junior varsity cheerleading and softball teams when she shared a post filled with profanity about not making the varsity roster.

According to the high court’s records, the justices voted 8-1 that school systems have a limited ability to regulate students’ speech and expression off-campus.

“The facts of this instant matter are virtually identical to the facts in the Mahanoy Area School District case,” Sullivan wrote in the lawsuit.

The family’s lawyer did not include the contentious image of K.H. in the court docs. However, a photo of the gold face paint’s packaging was submitted, The Baltimore Sun reports.

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