Families of two former students at St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster say they plan to sue the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo over the teens’ expulsions in April.
The school expelled Takal Molson and Cameron Dunning, both seniors and players on the school’s basketball team, “under suspicious circumstances,” according to a news release the families issued. The school did not give a reason for the expulsions, they said.
“We were never told by leadership, faculty or any staff at St. Mary’s as to why the boys were initially suspended and ultimately expelled,” said Felicia Baker, Molson’s mother, in the release. “No one communicated with us in any way, and we were never allowed to participate in any meetings on the matter despite our constant inquiries to the school.”
The diocese disputed the assertion that the students’ families were not kept informed.
“St. Mary’s High School imposes discipline after a full and fair investigation with notification to students and family members,” the diocesan statement said.
The diocese and school are prohibited by law from discussing the students’ cases specifically, according to the diocesan statement.
“If the students and their families are willing to provide the written consent required by federal law, we would be glad to discuss the matter in full, while continuing to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of any others involved in this matter,” according to the diocesan statement. “Otherwise, the facts surrounding this matter will be aired in a court of law.”
The families did not include any information about why the two teens were suspended and then expelled, whether they violated any school policies, or whether the families believe no violations occurred.
They protested the timing of the school’s actions. Both students were recruited as sophomores and won numerous awards while maintaining strong grade-point averages.
The high school suspended them before the last two games of the playoffs leading to state championship tournaments, the family news release said.
Tyree Parker, basketball coach at Health Science Charter School, where the two players now attend, reportedly has been a mentor to both teenagers since they were 12. He suggested in the release that the players missed gaining the attention of college scouts by missing the playoff games and describes the situation as “a devastating loss for their careers, future educational opportunities and earning potential.”
Buffalo civil rights attorney Prathima Reddy represents the students and their families.
She repeated the family’s allegations that the school did not give the parents formal notice that the students were in trouble.
“I was informed that these boys were expelled from senior year of high school without ever learning of an investigation, if one was conducted or even the allegations being made against them; the opportunity to discuss their academic options or academic due process,” she said in the release.
The students still expect to graduate this year, although their college futures remain uncertain. Dunning plans to attend a community college in hopes of reviving his prospect of playing basketball at a Division 1 college. Molson will attend a one-year prep school program in either Florida or Georgia with the same goal.