Salem family to sue school district after teen was expelled - KPTV - FOX 12

Salem family to sue school district after teen was expelled

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SALEM, OR (KPTV) -

A Salem teenager expelled for bringing a pocket knife to school is fighting that decision.

The student was expelled for the rest of the school year after administrators found the knife last fall.

The teen's mother now plans to file a civil suit against the Salem-Keizer School District.

The Salem-Keizer School District voted to expel Robert Mann, 18, last fall because, according to school records, he was involved in a fight off campus.

When he was questioned and searched, administrators found the pocket knife that had a 3- inch blade.

"I believe Robert had it in his pocket using it at home for general utility needs and then went to school with it," said Terry Todd, a family spokesperson.

The family reviewed Oregon state laws which states the possession of any ordinary pocket knife is allowed in a public or private school.

However, the district said under its rules, there are certain things that aren't allowed on campus that are legal elsewhere.

"There are all kinds of rules that apply to kids at schools that won't necessarily apply to kids or others out in the community," said Jay Remy, a spokesperson with the Salem-Keizer School District.

"The state statutes are rules that are being involved here. The administrative rules that the district is using can't be in conflict with Oregon law," added Todd.

Mann was given a citation for disorderly conduct after the knife was found.

"If they can break the law and misuse the law on one student, they can do it to all students across the state of Oregon," said Todd.

The family spokesperson says Mann wasn't looking to harm anyone.

"I am not agreeing that this was really good, but if the people or the schools wish to change the laws, they're going to have to go through the legislature," said Todd.

The family has filed a tort claim with the intent to file a civil rights lawsuit against the school district.

They also believe the district violated some of Mann's civil rights when they searched him, pointing out that Mann is one of only a few black students at the school.

According to Oregon Department of Education statistics, black students are more likely to be disciplined than any other racial group within the Salem-Keizer School District.

"I think it's an issue statewide and nationally too, and the issue is, we have to find out why is that happening and what do we need to do to stop it," added Remy.

Mann's family is waiting to hear from the school board before it officially files the lawsuit against the district.

They're hoping the district will change its policy and comply with state law.

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