A 14-year-old Texas student was suspended last week after she created a diorama of a courtroom using pictures of school board members to represent various people in her project, including a prosecutor and "fake" defendant.
Lucero Tovar, a freshman from Santa Maria, Texas, worked on her project for two days for her criminal justice class.
The assignment, which was due Oct. 20, was to create a miniaturized 3D courtroom setting, she told KGBT-TV.
“We needed to have, like, the lawyer and a judge," Tovar said.
She decided to use photos of school district personnel and elected board members, which she printed out from the Santa Maria Independent School District’s website.
Tovar even used some of her relatives’ faces and put them on the characters in her project, which she never got to present in class.
She was called to principal Cindy Taylor’s office the next day.
“The principal just looks at me and is like, ‘You know why you're in here right?’” Tovar explained. “I said no. She said, ‘You're harassing people.’ And I was like, ‘Huh?’ For me, I was like, ‘What?’"
Tovar adds: “She just told me that I was harassing and that she's going to suspend me for 4 days.”
That’s when she called her mother, who opted to pull her daughter from the school immediately instead of facing an unjustified suspension.
Action 4 News contacted the district for an interview on the suspension, but administrators, including Superintendent Maria Chavez, wouldn’t return phone calls.
The station obtained copies of the school notices from Tovar, which read:
To the parent(s) or guardian(s) of: Lucero Tovar
You are hereby advised that Lucero Tovar is assigned an In-School-Suspension (ISS) from Santa Maria High School for the following Code of Conduct violation(s): damaging innuendo message on class project to another’s reputation — district personnel.
The 1 day(s) of In-School-Suspension assignment will be in effect for the following date(s): October 21, 2014. Your son/daughter may return to classes and/or school activities on October 22, 2014.
If you have not been contacted by the school prior to receiving this notice, please call Santa Maria High School at 565-9144.
During an In-School-Suspension, a student is not permitted on school property and may not attend any school-sponsored activities. If school is closed during this time, the suspension will occur on the next day school is in session.
However, on Wednesday, Chavez contacted KGBT-TV over the phone, saying that Tovar’s depiction of her and others amounted to “bullying.”
Chavez’s photo was used to portray a "fake" defendant in an orange jumpsuit.
Tovar claims there was no written description required for the assignment, but the superintendent says that’s not true.
Her partners for the project were not aware that any faces of personnel would be added.
Aldolfo Hinojosa, a school board member, told KGBT that he plans to investigate the incident further.
Tovar is now enrolled in the La Feria Independent School District.
Video Source: KGBT Action 4 News/YouTube