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Lawsuit threatened over Cypress Lake HS 'hero' suspension


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Lawsuit threatened over Cypress Lake HS 'hero' suspension

By Matt Grant. CREATED Mar 7, 2013

CAPE CORAL, Fla. - A national youth rights group is prepared to sue the Lee County School District, not for money, but to expunge the suspension given to a teen many are calling a hero.

This comes more than a week after a Cypress Lake High School student was suspended after he wrestled a loaded .22 caliber revolver away from a would be gunman threatening to shoot another student.

"He was going to shoot him point blank," said the 16-year-old teen who wrestled the loaded gun away.

Fox 4 is not identifying him because he fears for his safety. He believes he prevented a tragedy.

"If you didn't tackle him what do you think would have happened?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"More of us would have been dead," the teen said. "Not just one."

"This student deserves to be praised," said Jeffrey Nadel, the president of the National Youth Rights Association, "not punished."

The Washington D.C.-based group advocates for young people nationwide and is now representing the teen's family.

"This student should be hailed as a life-saving hero," said Nadel. "And, instead, school officials have mindlessly adhered to a circumstance blind school policy instead of looking this young man in the eye and saying 'thank you.'"

According to the original referral, the teen was suspended for three days because he was involved in an incident where a weapon was present.

The school later altered the document, sending the family a new referral to say it was because he was "uncooperative" with the investigation and "lied repeatedly" to law enforcement.

The teen admits withholding information but says it was because he feared for his life.

"You don't talk around here," said Nadel.

"Cause then what," asked Grant, "you get a bad reputation?"

"That," said the teen, "or you get killed."

"I think we need to look at the circumstances holistically," said Nadel. "Again, he was just involved in an incredibly traumatic incident."

Nadel says he was under no obligation to answer questions. He objects to the teen's description of his treatment, saying he was never offered counseling and was subjected to a lengthy interrogation.

"This young man was interrogated for four hours against his will by school and law enforcement officials," said Nadel. "And he was consistently denied access to his mother or to an attorney."

Nadel says he just wants the suspension expunged from the teen's record. And he's prepared to fight for that.

"He should not have a suspension on his record for his heroism," said Nadel. "If the district signals to us clearly that they are unwilling to do the right thing than a lawsuit is definitely in the cards."

Nadel says if they go forward with a lawsuit it would be to cover attorney fees and force the school to remove the suspension from the teen's record.

Since the incident happened on the school's bus, Nadel questions if the bus driver was suspended and what he did, if anything, during the incident.

Fox 4 reached out to the school district for comment but did not hear back.

National Youth Rights Association

Matt Grant