“Here we go kiddos,” Newport High School senior Alex Su wrote on an Instagram story before the Monday disciplinary hearing which would determine the fate of her recent emergency expulsion.
Last month, students at NHS walked out in solidarity with Su, who expressed on social media that she felt dismissed by the school’s administration after alleging another student harmed her emotionally and physically. NHS emergency expelled Su and four other students when the protest became, in the words of Principal Dion Yahoudy, “escalated to substantial disruption to the educational process.” Since then, in a groundswell of support some parents likened to the #MeToo movement, many schools in the area followed suit. Students at Interlake High School, Sammamish High School, and Bellevue High School protested in support of Su, and more than 100 students protested outside the Seattle Public Schools district office.
On Monday, at least 100 viewers tuned into Su’s 11-hour-long disciplinary meeting, which the district agreed to publicly broadcast by her request. Su fought to overturn her emergency expulsion, which is functionally a suspension. She wanted it off her record and for the school to reinstate her.
The hearing officer ultimately ruled in favor of Bellevue School District which had the burden of proving that it complied with its own rules. Su said the verdict upheld the initial emergency expulsion but allowed her to return to school on Wednesday after missing 12 days of school. I called the district to confirm the ruling and the communications officer could not comment.
When Su saw the verdict in an email the morning after the meeting, she was not surprised.
“From what we've seen, clearly they're not choosing to take the fair way out or, I guess, in my opinion, the right way out,” Su said.
A parent of another student who was emergency expelled for involvement in the protest said that the school removed the expulsion from their student's record.
On Thursday, the interim superintendent, Dr. Art Jarvis, defended the district’s process in a statement that emphasized fairness to both parties. To Jarvis, the efforts to address this issue outside of the legal process are “abjectly one-sided and harmful.”
“There is no tolerance for sexual assault or sexual harassment in the policies or practices of the Bellevue school system. Neither is there any room for a mentality that skips essential investigations and findings or neglects due process protection deserved by every person,” Jarvis wrote. “The district will continue to investigate any charges or allegations. However, because these involve juveniles, findings will not be made public at any time.”
He also urged people “not to contribute further to premature or unwarranted conclusions that clearly harm.”
Su initially fought for the school to allow her to return to instruction, but after returning Wednesday, she was back at home, learning remotely, by her own volition Friday morning.
“It's just very clear that they are not on my side and they're not interested in being on my side in any way,” Su said. “So I don't want to be at a school where the people that are in charge are not on my side whatsoever.”
Su said her Wednesday return to NHS went off without a hitch, but Thursday was a different story. Su said the school’s administration removed her from the choir class she shared with her alleged abuser and put her into ceramics. She’s sung in choir since 4th grade; now she said she will not get to join the group for their senior concert.
Su told The Stranger two weeks ago that she wanted the district to reform the process of reporting violence and, more personally, remove her alleged abuser from the class they share. Su said he was allowed this accommodation for the same reason she wanted him removed from the class in the first place, because he feels threatened by her.
“I'm pissed,” Su said. “This one thing, this one tiny thing that I asked for and I've been trying to get for four months, he gets within like a day of asking.”
The district said it cannot comment on the record of individual students.
As of Friday morning, Su does not have plans to hurry back to NHS for instruction. She said she will appeal again to get the emergency expulsion off her record ahead of college application submissions. This time, it will not be an 11-hour meeting, but rather higher board members will evaluate the notes of the initial meeting. All cases are allowed two appeals, so this would be Su’s last opportunity to appeal.
Students and parents continue to support Su with plans to protest at the upcoming board meeting. Noel Le, who organized a Slack group chat for parents who are concerned about how BSD handles complaints, said while he “solidly supports” BSD, he sees “great opportunity for leaders to interpret policies in a way to put student safety first.”
He added, “The context is not just about the handful of students who now allege assault, it also concerns the many unnamed students who didn't get adequate support in the past, and future students who may one day seek school leaders' help against assault.”
Su is not sure if she will be able to attend the protest without repercussions, but she said she’ll be close by regardless.
“Worse comes to worst, I'll be sitting in the car across the street, but I think that's really cool that students are still coming together to protest and just say what they want to say,” Su said.