High school senior Atiya Haynes was in advanced placement classes, she was active in numerous extra-curricular school activities, she volunteered in the community, she held part-time employment, and she had been in trouble only for arguing with her girlfriend on one occasion, and on another occasion when her cell phone rang during class.

Yet when a school employee pulled a long-forgotten pocketknife from Atiya’s purse, the school district’s first impulse was to expel her for having a weapon on school premises. The ACLU of Michigan represented Atiya during expulsion hearings in October 2014 so the school board would know that Michigan’s “zero tolerance” rules actually allow school officials to forgo expulsion if it is demonstrated that the student had no knowledge that a weapon was in her possession.

In Atiya’s case, she had been given the knife months earlier by her grandfather who worried for her safety as she rode her bike to work through dangerous areas. She never used it and, unbeknownst to her, the knife had remained buried beneath the ample contents of her purse.

After a series of hearings, the school board voted not to expel Atiya, but to suspend her the balance of the school year. Because she was not expelled, she was allowed to enroll in another school district. She has since graduated and is now enrolled in college.

(ACLU Attorney Mark Fancher)

To view the full 2014-2015 Legal Docket, click here.