Teen Suspended for Fighting in Self-Defense - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/08/04

Teen Suspended for Fighting in Self-Defense

Parents expect their kids to be safe when they're in school. But one mother says that wasn't the case at Savannah High School. A few weeks ago, her son was in the cafeteria when kids came onto school grounds and attacked him. And her son was suspended for defending himself.

We spoke with Brenda Johnson, the teen's mother, as well as people at the Board of Education. School officials say it's all part of the zero tolerance policy which means no weapons, drugs or any kind of violence on campus. But Johnson says school policy not only violates her son's civil liberties, but he is an innocent victim

Her son, senior Alejandro Johnson, says he is a victim of the zero tolerance policy. "I was attacked," he said. "I was in the right, 100 percent. I was where I was supposed to be doing what I was supposed to be doing."

Alejandro says he was eating lunch inside the school cafeteria when kids came off the street and into the cafeteria and started beating him up. He says he had no choice but to stand up for himself. "I was defending myself and I feel like I was backed into a corner," he said.

That day, everyone involved was arrested, and on top of that Alejandro was suspended for ten days.

His mother says two years ago it, wouldn't have surprised her if her son got into trouble, but he has turned his life around. He is now a B student, and because of his new criminal record all that hard work has been tarnished. "Al can't get a job as long as this is on his record," she said. "He won't be able to get to certain colleges."

But the Savannah-Chatham Board of Education says it stands behind the decision of the suspension. "It takes two to fight and the first thing we tell all students, repeatedly, is back away and wait until there is an adult there," board president Hugh Golson said.

But Brenda says, when it comes to her son, the zero tolerance policy has been taken too far. "For someone to come to school and violate his safety, I'm hurt," she said.

"No fighting under any circumstances, I understand that, but I was defending myself," said Alejandro.

We did speak to the principal of Savannah High School and she agrees that it takes two to fight, and again the zero tolerance policy includes no violence on school grounds whatsoever.

Reported by: Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com

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