Reported By Jonathan Martin
Eleven Hunters Lane High School football players are finding out on Thursday whether they'll be allowed back in school after being accused of smoking marijuana before Friday night's football game and then suspended.
The district is holding 11 hearings, and two of the players found out from the Metro Schools Discipline Review Board that they won't be allowed back in the classroom.
"It was a couple of us, like, most of the stars on the team didn't even participate in smoking, but just were around," said 17-year-old Bruce Mallory, one of the expelled students. "They uphold the decision on other students' statement, like, not really hearing the whole side of the story, just going off of what certain students said. And the students wrote statements under pressure, so, I mean, you can't really, how can you count that?"
Bruce, a junior at Hunters Lane, said he didn't use marijuana.
He and several of the other students were represented by the NAACP. The civil rights organization is representing six of the students, and it's claiming that the Metro School System suspended the players without a full investigation.
District leaders have said that all of the suspended players admitted to smoking marijuana before the game. The players and NAACP said a lot of those students gave statements under duress, were pressured into making the statements and that the district doesn't have any concrete evidence that the smoking or illegal possession took place.
Bruce said only four players had the illegal drug and that the principal pressured him and others into confessing.
"She literally told me everything to say," he said.
Bruce and four other players met with the district's discipline review board to appeal the punishment, but the board upheld the expulsions, pointing to zero tolerance rules that include drugs on school property.
"It's intolerable," said Nashville NAACP Legal Chairman Walter Searcy.
Searcy represented several of the students in their hearing and said he feels the players are being unfairly punished as a group based on statements and no proof.
He said principals should have more flexibility when it comes to cases involving marijuana, as he said automatic expulsions disproportionately hurt black students.
"Statistically, what's happening is more than 50 percent of African-American males are being expelled from schools across this nation and in Metro-Davidson County," said Searcy.
"It's my senior year, so this is going to hurt," said Bruce, who has more than 30 colleges recruiting him, he said, including Middle Tennessee State University.
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