Weston parent: Son wrongfully expelled, discriminated against
WESTON — A Weston father has contacted the Norwalk NAACP and plans to file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities after claiming his child was wrongfully expelled, racially discriminated against and denied due process.
Brian Murray’s son was expelled in May for one school year after being accused of making threats while attending Weston Middle School. According to Murray, his son’s expulsion followed an investigation of a white student who made threats to “shoot up” the middle school that same month.
Murray, a black man, said his son was later accused of saying “don’t come to school on June 13” as it would be “judgment day.” However, Murray argues it was instead a third child who made the claim, not his son.
“The other parents need to know there was another child involved in the threats,” Murray said, adding his son maintains his innocence.
His son was suspended on May 16, and on May 20 the Board of Education approved a change to their expulsion hearing proccess, which lowers the administration’s standard of proof to a preponderance of evidence.
Murray’s son had his expulsion hearing on June 4 and was then expelled.
According to a May 16 police report, the white student under initial investigation for threatening to “shoot up” Weston Middle School alleged Murray’s son was involved. The student reportedly did not come forth with this information because he was scared after Murray’s son broke his arm two years ago.
“My son was accused of a false charge,” Murray said. “When you break somebody’s arm, that’s an assault.”
Murray noted he had never been contacted about his son doing such an act in the past, and claims it was the student who previously threatened his son. According to school records dated Oct. 19, 2016, obtained by the Westport News, the student told Murray’s son “I am going to smack you so hard I’m going to knock the black out of you and then you’ll be white.”
Murray added the student who made the initial threats at the school never had an expulsion hearing. No proceedings were shown on Weston’s school calendar for the month of May and June outside of the expulsion hearings for Murray’s son.
According to Murray, the third child, another white student, also never faced ramifications and currently attends Weston High School. On the other hand, his son will be subject to 10 hours of tutoring a week at the Weston Library while he fulfills his one-year expulsion, he said.
Weston Human Resources Director Lewis Brey said he could not comment on specific students’ cases, but noted every expulsion case has a hearing. Some cases are contested, and other times a family enters into a stipulated expulsion. Brey said families tend to initiate the discussions for stipulated expulsions.
“Usually if the parents have an attorney and they feel the evidence is such that the expulsion is likely to happen, they’ll enter into negotiations with the district,” Brey said. “There will still be an expulsion, but it will be based on some type of agreement.”
He said the policy change in May would also not affect students’ expulsions.
“The process is statutory,” Brey said. “The law is in the statute.”
Meanwhile, Norwalk Branch NAACP President Brenda Penn-Williams said her organization felt Murray’s son had not only been discriminated against, but also railroaded.
“From the evidence presented to me, it seemed there was prejudice against his son,” she said. “I strongly feel that way.”
Penn-Williams added the NAACP would continue to have talks with administration about the ongoing matter, but may also consider performing a demonstration outside of town hall.
Following Murray’s claims, Weston Superintendent William Mckersie said an internal investigation would be conducted but declined further comment due to the case involving individual student matters.
“The policy of the Weston Board of Education prohibits any form of discrimination or harassment on any basis prohibited by state or federal law, whether by students, Board employees, the Board, or third parties subject to the Board’s control,” Mckersie said in an email. “It also is the policy of the Board to provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging discrimination.”
Murray noted some hesitancy in coming forward due to the difficulty of proving things such as racism; however, after several other incidents his family has experienced in town, he felt it was important to make a stand.
One such incident allegedly took place on Nov. 10, while Murray was practicing with his daughter at the Weston High School soccer field. Murray claims he was approached by Weston Soccer Club member Corey Rubin, who said he had reserved the soccer field. Rubin then allegedly called Weston police on Murray after he did not leave promptly.
During the phone call, Rubin referred to Murray as a “black male” and said, “He’s claiming he has a gun,” though he later states he doesn’t believe Murray had one. Murray said throughout the call, Rubin never identifies Murray or acknowledges the fact they know each other.
Murray, who said he does not own a gun, said the event potentially placed his life in danger, and on May 14 filed a formal complaint through CHRO. A mediation date between the Weston Soccer Club, town and Murray is set for Oct. 3.
Since voicing his accusations of the school, Murray and representatives from the Norwalk NAACP chapter have met with school administration, the police chief and town selectmen multiple times.
“We’ve discussed it with all of them,” Murray said. “ Not one of them have done anything.”