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After an overturned expulsion and dropped lawsuit, student returns to Torrey Pines

REGION — After an expulsion, an expulsion reversal, and a lawsuit that lasted 202 days before being withdrawn, the student at the center of the controversy has been re-enrolled at Torrey Pines High School.

His father — names have been withheld to protect the family’s privacy — wrote in a statement, “Our family feels relieved that San Dieguito Union High School District finally withdrew its meritless lawsuit against the San Diego County Office of Education. In May 2018, the county found that the district unlawfully expelled our son and must reinstate him immediately. The county order in favor of our family stands today.”

“We are grateful to our attorneys at the University of San Diego Legal Clinic and the public for their help, support and interest in justice. We also appreciate the administration and teachers of the district interim school our son attended during the litigation. Our son has returned to his neighborhood school to demonstrate his commitment to academic, athletic and civic excellence for our school community.”

The student was expelled from Torrey Pines last March for allegedly making “terroristic threats” on social media. His family challenged San Dieguito’s decision by appealing it to the San Diego County Board of Education.

The county overturned the expulsion — deeming it unsupported by evidence — and ordered the expulsion record expunged and the boy reinstated.

The district, however, refused to re-enroll the student at Torrey Pines at the end of last school year and then filed a lawsuit against the county on June 29 to attempt to make the expulsion stand.

After hiring two law firms to handle the case, with one replacing another, the district withdrew its suit from San Diego Superior Court on Jan. 16.

John Salazar was the only San Dieguito board member to vote against the initial expulsion on March 16, 2018. He is no longer on the board and did not run for re-election in November.

Salazar said in a written statement that he was pleased to discover that the district had “finally dropped the frivolous lawsuit.”

He continued, “It seems that Superintendent Dr. Haley is providing the common sense leadership that our district and school board has lacked for many years. I bet the taxpayers of the area would like to know exactly how many tens of thousands of dollars were paid to the lawyers and not to programs that would have benefited our students.”

Haley, who did not work for San Dieguito when the decisions to expel and sue were made, explained that the amount paid to pursue an individual case is a matter of attorney-client privilege and can’t be publicly disclosed.

Although the student had the legal right to re-enroll in Torrey Pines ever since the county issued its final and binding decision on May 31, the family and district struck an undisclosed agreement that the boy would attend a different district high school for the fall 2018 term.

The student returned to Torrey Pines on Jan. 30.