Davidson County Schools denies records for student suspended for using the term “illegal alien”; district provided training that advised counselors how to keep secrets from parents


On April 15, 2024, The Carolina Journal reported that a 16-year-old student at Central Davidson High School in North Carolina “was suspended for three days last week after using the term ‘illegal alien’ during a vocabulary assignment in his English class.” The news outlet continued to report:

[The mother’s] son has a teacher who assigned vocabulary words during class last Tuesday, including the word ‘alien.’ [She] says her son made an effort to understand the assignment and responded to his teacher, asking, “Like space aliens or illegal aliens without green cards?”

The term “illegal alien” is accurate legal terminology for people illegally in the United States. Another student in the class reportedly “took offense to his question and reportedly threatened to fight him, prompting the teacher to call in the assistant principal.”

Parents Defending Education submitted a public records request to the district requesting emails from the teacher involved in the class, principal, superintendent, and board members regarding the situation. A representative of Davidson County Schools responded by stating: “That said, it is possible that said emails so requested may contain confidential student/educational records under FERPA that would not be subject to a public records request and/or to the extent that such emails can be provided pursuant to your request, they may have to be heavily redacted or not provided at all.”

PDE only received a few emails back including the student’s mother asking how to appeal a disciplinary mark. The principal of the high school responded to the student’s parents stating: “If there is anything that my staff or I can assist with as he prepares to return to school, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”

In another public records request to the district, PDE requested any training provided to staff on transgender issues. PDE received a presentation from the district dated July 16, 2021, titled “Transgender Students: The Next Four Years.” One slide is advice for school counselors that appears to advise them on how to keep secrets from parents regarding gender identity. The presentation states that because of FERPA, “parents have rights to notes.” Counselors are then advised to “don’t write down anything or email anything you wouldn’t want a parent to see/know.”

The presentation tells staff that “gender identity refers to one’s internal sense of gender, which may be different from one’s assigned sex.” The presentation also provided examples of what has happened regarding gender identity in other districts. The presentation further has best practices that include “keep an open mind,” “remind staff to keep an open mind,” “educate yourself,” “remember that the parent may have a lot of anxiety,” “refer parents to counseling if necessary,” and “refer to the student using preferred name and gender pronouns.”