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Parents Sue Elite School Claiming Son Was Expelled for Conservative Views

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: A statue of the scales of justice stands above the Old Bailey on February 16, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty
DR. SUSAN BERRY

The parents of a student who was expelled from an elite Connecticut boarding school have filed a lawsuit claiming their son was targeted for his conservative political views.

A lawsuit filed in Connecticut Superior Court claims Cheshire Academy expelled sophomore Michael Mancini, 16, a member of the school’s football team, because of his known conservative political views.

According to the Connecticut Law Tribune:

The three-count lawsuit alleges breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and defamation at the academy that was founded in 1794 and is now one of the oldest boarding schools in the country. Boarding and tuition costs about $62,000 per year, according to information on the school’s website.

But the lawsuit alleges fellow students criticized and verbally attacked Michael Mancini, a member of the school’s football team, because of his conservative views, which was known among staff and students.

Mancini was expelled from the school on Tuesday, one day after his father, Theodore, unveiled a website chronicling his son’s tenure at the school. The site is called “The Real Cheshire Academy” and, according to Mancini’s attorney, Jamie Sullivan, the website “soon went viral among the kids at the school and kids from other prep schools.”

“The school also knew that the family has retained an attorney,” said Sullivan, a managing partner at Howard Kohn Sprague & FitzGerald. “I had written a letter threatening a lawsuit.”

The lawsuit was served to David Dykeman, the school’s associate head, Julie Anderson, head of schools, and Wesley Simon, the dean.

According to the website run by Mancini’s father, his son was excited to be able to attend and play football at a school that promised “fairness and open mindedness of everyone’s beliefs and opinions.”

“No longer would it be a constant battle versus censorship and persecution faced in public school,” the father wrote about his son’s anticipated beliefs about Cheshire Academy.

The lawsuit describes a key incident, however, in which Mancini’s English class was discussing William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, in which a girl named Viola cross-dresses as a male. While some students said they saw this as a positive portrayal of transgenderism, Mancini observed “that was not historically accurate because up until the Twentieth Century that kind of behavior was frowned upon in England,” states the complaint.

“Michael was verbally attacked and screamed at by two students for making those comments, for his opinion,” the lawsuit continues, adding that Emily Roller, Michael’s teacher, afterward discussed with him “how to steer clear of language that can upset others.”

In another incident described in the lawsuit, Mancini participated in a mandatory Martin Luther King Workshop at Cheshire Academy where two of the required workshops were “White Privilege” and “Toxic Masculinity.”

Despite reportedly being told he could express his views safely in the workshops, a teacher ultimately reported him for his response to the prompt, “Tell us something that is obvious about your identity.”

According to the lawsuit:

Michael’s answer “Obviously I am black” was an attempt at making a joke, and students both black and white in that workshop did laugh. Michael has apologized numerous times for having made that comment. It was not directed at anyone nor designed to harass or offend anyone. Again, that comment was made with a promise that it would not leave that room.

The complaint continues:

One teacher at the Academy, Mr. Rogers, who was instrumental in getting Michael suspended told Michael that one of the Federalist papers stated that if someone has a minority view, that person has a “higher bar” to meet in proving oneself. Michael corrected Mr. Rogers, stating that that Federalist paper made the opposite point, that in the democracy that is the United States, the minority view point must be protected lest our country lapse into despotism.

According to the New Haven Register, head of school Anderson said the decision to expel Mancini was conducted fairly.

She said the student was “given a number of chances to adhere to our expectations and the rules and code of conduct of Cheshire Academy [CA].”

“Contrary to what you may have read, our decision was not based on an opposition to political dialogue,” the letter states. “We will take steps to defend the good name and reputation of CA, and will continue to work with legal counsel through this unfortunate episode.”

Sullivan, Mancini’s attorney, however, said the student was ultimately suspended “because of his conservative views and his lack of political correctness.”

“I do a lot of school litigation on bullying cases and in a sense, this is bullying for having non-traditional ideas,” he said. “It belies the whole concept of liberalism, which is to embrace diverse ideas. In this politically correct environment, they are being very intolerant.”

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