Law360 Features Keisha Coleman’s Pro Bono Work for Sixth-Grade Honor Student

June 12, 2019

Law360 profiled McGuireWoods associate Keisha Coleman in its June 9 “Pro Bono Spotlight” feature, detailing her efforts to reverse the suspension of a sixth-grade honor student who unknowingly paid for his school lunch with a counterfeit $20 bill.

Coleman, a litigator in the firm’s Atlanta office, represented the student and his family in a case that drew national media attention. The student was suspended under the Henry County Board of Education’s zero-tolerance policy, despite having an unblemished disciplinary record. Coleman told Law360 she became aware of the student’s suspension after seeing a local news interview with the boy and his family.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” she told Law360. The story noted that Coleman is a former high school literature teacher.

The student got the $20 bill from his father, who had received it from a fast-food restaurant. Neither had any idea the bill was counterfeit until a school cafeteria worker marked it with a counterfeit-detection pen. A hearing officer extended the suspension by two days before Coleman filed a brief seeking to remove the incident from the student’s record and urging the board to revise its zero-tolerance policy for mere possession of counterfeit money. She argued that the board of education failed to follow state laws requiring policies to be age-appropriate and designed to help student learning.

The board reversed the punishment and cleared the student’s record at a Jan. 30 hearing. In the Law360 story, Coleman expressed disappointment that the board did not change its zero-tolerance policy.

“With that zero-tolerance policy, there was no possible way it improved student learning,” Coleman said. “There was no deterrent effect — the child had no clue it was counterfeit!”

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