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Steven’s Story

Steven was a bright thirteen-year-old student who was attending a public middle school in Brooklyn. One afternoon, the principal announced that bed bugs had been found in the school.  Based upon his mother’s instruction, Steven took an all-natural bed bug repellant spray to school the next day. In school, Steven sprayed his clothes and his book bag upon entering each class. When Steven arrived to his last period of the day, he sprayed the bed bug repellant on himself. The teacher told Steven that she was highly sensitive and asthmatic and felt uncomfortable with the spray. The teacher left the classroom.

The next day Steven received a 5-day superintendent’s suspension charging him with possession of a weapon and a dangerous chemical and spraying that chemical in a classroom of students, resulting in a teacher having an asthma attack.

Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) represented Steven at his suspension hearing. AFC proved that the all-natural bed bug spray Steven sprayed on himself was neither a weapon nor a dangerous chemical. AFC also proved that the all-natural spray did not contain any ingredients known to aggravate asthma or to cause asthmatic symptoms.

Shockingly, a few days later, when the hearing officer’s decision was announced, the charges were modified. The charges of possession of a weapon and a dangerous chemical were dismissed, but Steven was now charged with engaging in reckless behavior that caused serious injury. Steven was given a 30-day superintendent’s suspension. AFC, in partnership with the law firm, Nixon Peabody LLP, filed an appeal and urged the court to immediately expunge the 30-day superintendent’s suspension. The lawyers proved that Steven’s due process was violated because the modified charges of engaging in reckless behavior that caused serious injury was not noted in the suspension notice. In addition, having a 30-day superintendent’s suspension on his record would seriously impair Steven’s chances of getting accepted to a highly competitive high school. The decision was reversed, and the charges against Steven were dropped and expunged from his record. Today, Steven is a successful student at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School.