WILMINGTON, Del. (CN) – A student who was shot in the back after a high school basketball game says his school district effectively expelled him, barring him from campus as a danger to others. Toddrick McDougale says he was victimized by the shooter and then by the Colonial School District, which failed to protect him and then “tossed [him] aside.”
In his federal complaint, McDougale says he recovered in two weeks from the shooting that left him with a bullet wound 1 inch from his spine, but William Penn High School forced him to enroll in “homebound” education. The district ordered McDougale, a junior and a member of the varsity football team, to stay off school grounds and away from school functions.
Instead of a typical 35-hour school week, the homebound program gave McDougale only 5 hours of instruction per week, according to the complaint. Eight months after the January 2009 shooting, the school announced that McDougale had graduated.
McDougale says the district’s “sham” effectively expelled him, and the “substandard” homebound program damaged his future educational and employment prospects.
He also says the district slandered him in a press release, by implying that he was not an innocent victim in the shooting. The district said McDougale was shot in “retaliation” for a prior fight, and his return to school would put other students at risk because police never identified the shooter, according to the complaint.
To enroll in the homebound program, state code mandates that a student or guardian must apply, but McDougale says neither he nor his mother requested the service.
The complaint alleges that the homebound program isolated McDougale from friends, denied him access to college guidance services and stopped him from playing football, though McDougale’s status as a minority student athlete improved his college chances.
Despite the district’s phony “graduation” claims, McDougale’s academic record reflects an incomplete junior year, according to the complaint.
McDougale seeks damages for civil rights violations, and an injunction allowing him to return to school. He is represented by Umbreen Bhatti with the ACLU; Leroy Tice with Aber, Baker & Over; and Thomas Harty with Cozen O’Connor of Philadelphia.