ATHENS — A bench trial in Municipal Court is scheduled next month for a parent and two recent graduates who face misdemeanor charges after an incident at Athens High School on April 10.
All three pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday, and Municipal Court Judge Don Mansell set a July 18 bench trial in the cases.
Meanwhile, the Southern Poverty Law Center said its investigation into the Athens school system is ongoing, and it will pursue legal remedies to have the incident cleared from the two graduates' academic records.
The altercation at Athens High involving the parent, off-duty police officers hired by the school system and students resulted in the arrests of Amanda Loggins, 39; her daughter, 18-year-old senior Gabrielle Kirby; another 18-year-old senior, Makaleb Boykin; and one juvenile student. Athens police said they were all charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.
Richard Rice, a Birmingham attorney who is representing Loggins and the two 18-year-olds, said he believes the Athens police officers who were at the school that day “escalated the situation.”
Officers with the Athens Police Department have no additional training for dealing with minor children in a school setting, Rice said.
“I hope the judge is sympathetic to that,” he said.
If his clients are found guilty, “we’ll appeal and ask for a jury trial in Limestone County Circuit Court,” Rice said.
His clients declined to comment.
Athens City Schools Superintendent Trey Holladay and Police Chief Floyd Johnson had no comment Thursday.
The SPLC represented the then-students in a suit last month against the Athens school board which sought an emergency court order to allow them to participate in Athens High’s May 23 graduation ceremony.
The complaints stemmed from the indefinite suspension of the students after the April school incident.
Filed in Limestone County Juvenile Court, the complaints are under seal. According to the SPLC's statement, the petitions allege the Athens Board of Education violated the students’ due process rights by failing to prove they violated the Athens City Schools Student Code of Conduct and by arbitrarily punishing them and prohibiting them from participating in their graduation ceremony.
The complaints sought to reinstate the students and allow them to take part in their commencement, but their cases weren’t heard.
“Investigations are ongoing with Athens City Schools to ensure the district is following the law and that our clients have exhausted all legal options available to them,” Michael Tafelski, the SPLC’s senior supervising attorney, said in a statement.
“Our clients deserved a simple remedy in this particular case that the district refused to provide: the permission to attend and walk in celebration of their milestone achievement,” Tafelski said.
“Although the graduation ceremony has passed, the Southern Poverty Law Center will continue to represent our clients through the court process to have their student records corrected to reflect their innocence,” he said.
According to Tafelski, the school board has filed a motion to dismiss the case, and "we plan to oppose that motion and take our original claims to correct the students’ records to court.”
Holladay issued a statement last month regarding the claims, saying, “Athens City Schools strongly denies the allegations made by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”