Shakedowns Alleged in School Hallways

     GREENBELT, Md. (CN) – A high school student claims in court that his school district expelled him to retaliate for his truthful report that a school security guard shook down special ed students for cash.
     Jasper Braswell sued the Board of Education of Prince George’s County, in Federal Court.
     Braswell’s lawsuit comes 2 weeks after his teacher, Parris Easley, sued the board, claiming it fired him after he reported the guard to the school board hotline.
     Braswell says in his complaint that he was a senior at Duval High School when Ulysses Lee, a school security guard, began regularly demanding money from him and other special education students.
     “Mr. Lee extorted money from him by threatening to get him suspended for gambling,” says Braswell, who suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
     “Mr. Braswell told Mr. Easley that Mr. Lee had been extorting money from him for at least a year.”
     Lee is not named as a defendant.
     Braswell claims the guard kept the kids’ money for himself, and after Easley reported the shakedowns to the school principal, both Easley and Braswell suffered retaliation: Braswell was expelled and Easley was fired after 16 years with the school.
     Braswell claims that he, Lee and Easley met in the principal’s office for a meeting, at which Lee “threatened Mr. Braswell repeatedly with the comment, ‘Watch your back!’
     “A few hours later, Mr. Lee followed Mr. Braswell into a school bathroom and falsely accused him of gambling on school property,” according to the complaint.
     The accusation prompted his expulsion, Braswell says.
     Under Prince George’s County Public Schools’ Code of Student Conduct, only a superintendent can suspend a student for more than 5 days, but Eric Harrison, the Duval principal, expelled Braswell and reported him to the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services for gambling, Braswell says.
     Easley said in his federal complaint that after Braswell was expelled, he saw Lee assault another student, slamming him up against a wall and putting him in a choke hold.
     “The student was then expelled from Duval High School,” Easley said in his complaint.
     After this, Easley said, “for the first time in his life,” he began suffering attacks of extreme anxiety. One was so bad he had to go to a hospital emergency room.”
     When Braswell was allowed to return to school, he says, Harrison threatened to expel him again unless his mother accompanied him to school every day, which she did.
     “There is a causal connection between Jasper Braswell’s protected activity and the defendant’s adverse actions,” the complaint states. “A few weeks after Mr. Braswell made allegations against Mr. Lee, Mr. Braswell was expelled from school and faced criminal charges of gambling. Mr. Easley, who reported Mr. Braswell’s allegations to the administration, was barred from the school for a week and eventually terminated. And, a second student who repeated Mr. Braswell’s allegation was physically assaulted by Mr. Lee and expelled from school.”
     Braswell says he “continues to experience emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other pecuniary and non pecuniary losses.”
     He wants $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages, and a declaration that Board of Education violated his rights under the Rehabilitation Act.
     Braswell is represented by Bryan Chapman.

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