North Carolina Teen Suspended from High School for Using the Term ‘Illegal Alien’

By: Georgia | Published: Apr 18, 2024

In North Carolina, a classroom discussion took an unexpected turn when 16-year-old Christian McGhee used the term ‘illegal alien’ during a talk on word meanings. 

The phrase sparked controversy at Central Davidson High School, leading to Christian’s three-day suspension.

What Exactly Did Christian Say?

While dissecting the meaning of words in class, Christian asked, “Does ‘alien’ refer to space aliens or illegal aliens without green cards?” 

An empty classroom showing a group of desks with chairs arranged facing the front, each desk with a pencil holder and notebooks, suggesting a prepared learning environment

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This question, according to the Carolina Journal, was meant to clarify, not offend.

One Question, Big Consequences

Christian’s inquiry didn’t sit well with everyone. 

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The New York Post reports that Christian’s question offended another student, escalating to a threat and bringing school authorities into the mix. The situation quickly spiraled beyond a simple classroom debate.

The Price of Curiosity

Christian explained, “I didn’t make a statement directed towards anyone — I asked a question.” 

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Source: Jeswin Thomas/Pexels

His attempt to understand a term he’d heard in news and read in dictionaries landed him a suspension instead.

Not About Race

“I wasn’t speaking of Hispanics because everyone from other countries needs green cards.” 

A person at a rally holding up a sign that reads "NOBODY IS ILLEGAL" with tally marks, surrounded by other demonstrators, showcasing a moment of activism

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Christian added, “the term ‘illegal alien’ is an actual term that I hear on the news and can find in the dictionary.

An Unexpected Setback

Beyond the classroom, the suspension threw a wrench in Christian’s future plans. 

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As a key member of his school’s track and cross country teams, The Daily Mail reports that Christian fears this incident might jeopardize his athletic scholarship opportunities.


A Mother's Concern

Leah McGhee, Christian’s mother, expressed deep concern about the lasting impact of this incident.

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She said, “Our son was disciplined and given three days out of school suspension for ‘racism.'”


The Stigma of a Label

The label of ‘racism’ on Christian’s school record is a heavy burden. 

A black and white image of a protest scene where a person is holding a hand-painted sign stating "NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL,"

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Carolina Journal reports that he and his family worry it could tarnish his chances at securing a track scholarship, as well as his academic performance due to his suspension.


Political Attention

The issue caught the attention of State Senator Steve Jarvis from Davidson County, who reached out to the school district’s superintendent.

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Source: Senator Steve Jarvis/Facebook

He urged a reconsideration of the case for the sake of Christian’s future.


A Senator's Opinion

Senator Jarvis commented, “I do not see that that would be an offensive statement, just in getting clarification.” 

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Source: Senator Steve Jarvis/Facebook

However, he remained neutral, acknowledging the complexity of the situation and the need to understand all sides.


Seeking Resolution

As the community and officials debate, the McGhee family and their supporters hope for a resolution.

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They wish that the suspension will be removed from Christian’s record and his name cleared from any implications of racism.


Uncertain Future Amid School Policies

Davidson County Schools remains tight-lipped, citing privacy on student matters. 

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According to The Carolina Journal, their student handbook clarifies that while students have free speech rights, there are limits when speech is seen as disruptive, obscene, or abusive. How Christian’s query fits into these categories is up for debate, leaving his academic and athletic future hanging in the balance.