15-Year-Old Suspended For Holding Up Three Fingers In A Photo
A 15-year-old student is finally returning to school after a 21-day suspension for accusations that he used gang related signs in a picture taken at school.
The photo in question was taken by Dontradrian Bruce’s biology teacher at Olive Branch High School in Olive Branch, Miss. After completing a DNA model out of Legos, the African-American student holds up three fingers on one hand as he poses for the photo with his classmates. He says the simple gesture was meant to indicate the number on his football jersey. His teacher seemed to think otherwise as she accused him of using a gang sign.
Bruce, who earns As and Bs and has never been in trouble at school, said he had no prior knowledge that the gesture he made in the photo was used by a gang known as Vice Lords. Referring to the schools zero tolerance policy, the disciplinary hearing officer sentenced Bruce to “indefinite suspension with a recommendation of expulsion.”
Outrage in the community struck after the story was featured on local ABC news and the story went viral. Only after public uproar and Bruce’s parents involving Civil Rights groups the ACLU and the NAACP was Bruce readmitted to school.
Since Bruce and two other students who were suspended returned to school, the ACLU is continuing to fight to prevent over the top disciplinary actions being taken against students. Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi, says, “If a child is not in the learning environment, then their grades are impacted because those are unexcused absences, and often students aren’t given an opportunity to make that work back up.”
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