S⁠t⁠uden⁠t⁠ Suspended from a Lex⁠i⁠ng⁠t⁠on H⁠i⁠gh School for Us⁠i⁠ng Term ‘Illegal Al⁠i⁠en’

April 17, 2024

Kayla Maloney

CALN Project Manager

A student at Central Davidson High School in Lexington, NC, was suspended last week for using the term ‘illegal alien.’  

During a vocabulary assignment in his English class, 16-year-old Christian McGhee asked for clarification on the definition of the word ‘alien.’ When the word popped up on the vocabulary list, he asked his teacher, “Like space aliens or illegal aliens without green cards?” 

According to Carolina Journal, an email describing the incident details that a classmate took offence to the question and threatened to fight Christian. This made the English teacher call in the assistant principal, and in the end, his use of the term was deemed offensive and disrespectful to Hispanic classmates by administrative staff. 

In response to his suspension, Christian stated, “I didn’t make a statement directed towards anyone; I asked a question. I wasn’t speaking of Hispanics because everyone from other countries needs green cards, and the term “illegal alien” is an actual term that I hear on the news and can find in the dictionary.” 

According to his mother, Leah McGhee, who was hosted on The Pete Kaliner Show, their family had lived in England. Christian had mentioned that people from there also need green cards to reside in the U.S. His mother has argued several times that in asking his question, Christian was simply trying to understand the assignment. 

The term ‘illegal alien’ is in fact found in the dictionary and used as federal code. Leah claims Christian’s question should have prompted a teachable moment for everyone. 

This suspension can damage Christian’s record, being that he is hoping to secure an academic scholarship for college. He is an involved student who participates in school clubs, and runs track and cross country. 

“Because of his question, our son was disciplined and given THREE days OUT of school suspension for ‘racism,’” the student’s mother in an email shared with local officials and Carolina Journal. “He is devastated and concerned that the racism label on his school record will harm his future goal of receiving a track scholarship. We are concerned that he will fall behind in his classes due to being absent for three consecutive days.” 

The assistant principal has not removed the infraction from the student’s record, but his family is working with an attorney to ensure that it does not threaten his future success. They expect more developments in the coming days. 

Central Davidson High School’s student handbook says that “schools may place restrictions on a student’s right to free speech when the speech is obscene, abusive, promoting illegal drug use, or is reasonably expected to cause a substantial disruption to the school day.” 

To that end, no news outlets have detailed any action taken against the classmate who actively threatened Christian and prompted the teacher to bring in a higher-up school employee.