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Tribunal decision upheld, parent moves forward with state appeal
Liberty BoE 1
The Liberty County Board of Education operates out of this building at the corner of Memorial Drive and Bradwell Street in Hinesville. - photo by File photo

After a fight that occurred at Bradwell Institute on March 21 resulting in the expulsion of eight students after a fight on the bus ramp, one parent is set to appeal to the Georgia Department of Education.

According to parent Courtney Hernandez, the Liberty County Board of Education upheld the initial decision determined by the tribunal officer, which was expulsion from Bradwell Institute until January 2020, and enrollment in the alternative school Horizons Learning Center.

“The short backstory is that my child was jumped at school, and due to her protecting herself, which is obvious on both school video as well as cell phone video, she was expelled from school until January 2020,” Hernandez said previously. “We will be appealing to the state.”

In the initial appeal letter addressed to Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry, Hernandez outlines eight reasons why the original decision of expulsion by Tribunal Officer Samuel Harris should be overturned.

“The hearing did not meet the requirements as set forth in the Public School Disciplinary Tribunal Act nor the Official Codes of Georgia Annotated.  Arianna was not afforded due process as Mr. Samuel B. Harris found Arianna guilty prior to Arianna entering evidence or witness testimony in her case.  Testimony of witnesses for the school were inconsistent.  Mr. Samuel B. Harris did not allow for a self-defense argument as he stated before Arianna presented her case ‘by her (Arianna) statement, by his (Mr. Toriano Gilbert) statement and all the videos I’ve seen. She was involved in fighting.’ Arianna does not meet this standard in accordance to the Liberty County Code of Conduct or the Bradwell Institute Student Handbook as she was neither the initiator of the physical aggression nor a mutual combatant.  There is a clear lack of preponderance of the evidence that Arianna is guilty of this charge as defined.  Last but not least, Mr. Samuel B. Harris, Tribunal Officer, did not consider any lesser punishments in accordance with progressive discipline plan for schools in which less restrictive punishments were considered,” the appeal read.

O.C.G.A. 20-2-1160 states that every local board of education shall constitute a tribunal for hearing and determining any matter of ‘local controversy in reference to the construction or administration of the school law’, according to the website. After a hearing, the website continued, either party may appeal to the State Board of Education by filing a written request for appeal with the local school superintendent.

“This request must state the question in dispute, the decision of the local board, and a concise statement of the reasons why the decision is being appealed,” the website read. “This appeal should be addressed to and filed with the local school superintendent within 30 days of the decision of the local board of education. A transcript of the proceedings must also be filed.”

Upon receipt, the superintendent must transmit a copy of the appeal with transcripts concerning evidence and proceedings, the written decision of the board, and any other information relating to the appeal in question.

If the appeal is in proper form, the State School Superintendent, through the GaDOE Legal Services Division, will inform the parties that the appeal is going forward and provide important information, the website read.

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