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
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
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!”