On January 11, 2023, Monmouth County Superior Court Judge David F. Burman confirmed a $50,000 arbitration award to a former Neptune High School freshman who claimed that because he was African American, school officials and security guards assumed that he was the aggressor in an altercation when he was actually the victim.

In his lawsuit, the student, who now resides in Florida, claimed that he was arrested and suspended from school after he defended himself from another student who allegedly punched him and threw him against a wall on December 4, 2018. According to an arbitrator’s statement of reasons, the student was a “bullying victim” who was attacked by another student after security guards released the alleged attacker after an earlier incident. According to the arbitrator’s findings, the alleged victim “introduced a weapon (hair-pick) in self defense” which caused the alleged attacker to suffer injuries.

The alleged victim received a 45-day suspension from school and later had the criminal charges against him dismissed by the Monmouth County Prosecutor while the alleged attacker received a 5-day suspension, according to the findings, The arbitrator wrote that “suspension without a hearing from an incident later dismissed upon cursory review by a prosecutor entitles plaintiff to prevail” on his due process claims. The arbitrator noted that the plaintiff student incurred expenses for defending himself against the criminal charges and suffered “emotional distress [and] constructively forced relocation and disruption of high school experience.”

The case is captioned O.B. v. Neptune High School, et al, Docket No. MON-L-438-20 and the student’s attorney was Judith G. Amorski of Freehold. The civil lawsuit and arbitration award and order are on-line here.

While the matter was resolved via arbitration, none of lawsuit’s allegations have been proven or disproven at a full trial. It may be that the Neptune school district or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that they would not challenge the former student’s $50,000 to save further legal expense and the costs of trying may have been exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the school district wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial.

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project. Please send all comments to [email protected]