Student kicked out of high school graduated after 'botched' expulsion hearing

Elise Solé
Assaad Mawas Stephens, also known as Charlie, was kicked out of his high school graduation in Louisiana, because he had been previously expelled. (Photo: Courtesy of Assaad Mawas Stephens)
Assaad Mawas Stephens, also known as Charlie, was kicked out of his high school graduation in Louisiana, because he had been previously expelled. (Photo: Courtesy of Assaad Mawas Stephens)

An expelled student was ejected from his high school graduation ceremony where he crashed as a guest.

Assaad Mawas Stephens, nicknamed Charlie, was expelled from Lee High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in December, for possession of a knife and “evidence of marijuana,” reported The Advocate. His appearance at graduation broke a handbook rule against expelled students attending school functions.

“I wanted to support my classmates and I was never explicitly told that I couldn't come and watch,” Stephens, 18, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

With a guest ticket from his best friend, Stephens came to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center at Louisiana State University (where he will study mass communications in the fall), for the May 21st ceremony.

“I said hello to a few faculty members, including one who tried to expel me,” says Stephens. “He fist-bumped me and said ‘Hey, good to see you.’” Mid-ceremony, he says, that official told him to leave, on orders from his “boss.” When he waved over a university police officer, Stephens left the ceremony.

A university official tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “LSU Police can confirm that a Lee High School administrator asked the student to leave and an officer followed from a distance as the student walked out of the building. No incident report was filed.”

Stephens, a former student government president, Homecoming king and a committee member for the High School Democrats of America, says the expulsion procedure was “botched.”

“A classmate was vaping at school and later, I was using the bathroom at the same time as this person and three other students,” the 18-year-old tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We were all called to the office and searched.”

Stephens says everyone emptied their pockets and book bags, and handed over their car keys. In his bag, Stephens carried three empty JUUL pods for vaping nicotine and in his car, a first-aid kit with a knife. “They described the pods as ‘evidence of marijuana,’” says Stephens, “and my knife was 2¾-inches long and the school doesn’t allow knives more than two-inches long.”

But there was no marijuana, he says. “The pods were for nicotine, only nicotine,” Stephens tells Yahoo Lifestyle. He also says the student initially accused of vaping didn’t get in trouble because the search produced no evidence.

According to The Advocate, in February school board members unanimously voted to expel Stephens. One member reportedly said the extra ¾ of an inch on Stephens’s knife didn’t make her feel “safe.”

At the hearing, the teen was represented by his father Clifford Stephens, a professor at Louisiana State University, who argued the school had no probable cause to search his son.

An attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish Schools tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Our school system does not comment on pending legal matters.”

Stephens completed his high school degree online and says he and another student were expelled. In April, he filed a lawsuit against the East Baton Rouge School Board. In the complaint sent to Yahoo Lifestyle, the hearing denied Stephens “his fundamental right to privacy and his Constitutional protections from unreasonable search and seizure.”

Attorney William E. LeBlanc tells Yahoo Lifestyle that Stephens was also not allowed to rightfully cross-examine any witnesses. “That alone is grounds to reverse the expulsion,” says LeBlanc. “Charlie is a good kid — he’s remarkable in many senses. We hoped the board would agree.” The lawsuit hasn’t yet been resolved.

Stephens wants his Lee High School diploma and, “I would love the board to accept they did wrong.”

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