LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Eastern High School staff physically and verbally harassed a football player over accusations of smoking marijuana, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the mother of a 15-year-old against the Jefferson County Board of Education, accuses staff of physically harassing the student in January and wrongly suspending him for smoking marijuana – which the lawsuit claims he did not do. The lawsuit also claims that the student was told he cannot rejoin the football team because he had "burned bridges in the office" and was not "home-trained."

In January, the lawsuit says he was pulled from his second period class by the school’s head of security, Barry Goodall. The school’s assistant principal, Gregory Herberger, accused him of smoking marijuana that morning while waiting for the bus, based on bags under his eyes and his “left hand smelling like marijuana,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also alleges he was “repeatedly interrogated, harassed, and intimidated by Assistant Principal Herberger” and other staff members regarding whether other students were smoking marijuana with him. And the student was “thrown up against the wall," the suit claims.

Subsequently, the student was suspended for six days after admitting to having “taken a few puffs of marijuana,” though the lawsuit claims the confession was only due to “threats and coercion.”

The lawsuit claims no marijuana was ever found on him and he was not given a sufficient appeal. However, in a letter attached to the lawsuit, dated July 25, JCPS says the student was “given the opportunity to appeal” and “no further information has been presented to change the outcome of the disciplinary hearing.”

Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges the students who were with the plaintiff at the bus stop were given lesser suspensions. It also claims the plaintiff was given a more severe punishment because he is black.

Andrew Mize, the attorney for the student's mother, said the lawsuit is seeking a reversal of the suspension and relief from the staff’s harassment of the student. The lawsuit also is seeking attorney’s fees, court costs and “other relief to which this plaintiff is justly entitled.”

Bonnie Hackbarth, a spokeswoman for JCPS, said Thursday she had not seen a copy of the lawsuit, but added that the district does not comment on pending litigation.

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