Former Grundy County High School student Trevor Sanders has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Grundy County School Board, GCHS principal Glenda Dykes, and seven other defendants claiming his right to free speech was violated.
Sanders was arrested in April for what he reports as “asking questions about the high school’s valedictorian policy.”
When it was announced in April that a three-year graduating student would be named valedictorian, not a four-year student, Sanders says he expressed his opinions supporting the four-year student and he was arrested for harassing the three-year student chosen as valedictorian. Sanders was disciplined for by the school for voicing his opinions and arrested for harassment, but the charges were later dropped.
In December 2017, the Grundy County School Board voted that students graduating early could not be named as valedictorian. They subsequently reversed the decision. Sanders says the graduating class was not informed of the reversal. After Sanders arrest and community complaints, the school board voted to allow all seniors (including early graduates) who have a 4.0 GPA to be named valedictorian, resulting in 11 valedictorians for 2018 graduating class.
The lawsuit claims false statements were made in the warrant in which Daniel Richardson states, “Trevor Sanders has been harassing my daughter at school and putting post [sic] on facebook [sic] regarding the situation at school. My daughter has gotten valedictorian and I want this to stop. I have a copy of the video for review.”
The warrant did not allege any conduct by Sanders, verbal or otherwise and according to the suit “simply stated a legal conclusion that Trevor was ‘harassing’ Mr. Richardson’s daughter.”
The lawsuit further states that Sanders never spoke to the Richardsons’ daughter or said anything disparaging about her.” The statement by Richardson references a video taken by Sanders while he was in the principal’s office that he later posted on Facebook.
Sanders was booked at the Grundy County Jail on a criminal charge of “harassment non verbal [sic] threat” of Mr. and Mrs. Richardsons’ daughter under Tenn. Code Ann. §39-17-308 and searched, fingerprinted, and photographed. He posted a $1,000 bond the following morning and was released. The District Attorney reviewed the case and dismissed charges prior to Sanders’ first court date.
The lawsuit states “because of the trauma of the arrest and subsequent events, Trevor experienced prolonged emotional pain and suffering.” Further, Sanders says he never received an apology from any of the named defendants and no school officials, including Jamie Richardson who teaches at the school, have been reprimanded for their “unconstitutional acts” against Sanders.