Gwinnett student loses suspension appeal after disputing Zoom data

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

A sixth-grader accused of posting threats and racist language in Zoom waiting rooms lost his suspension appeal Thursday despite questions over the data Gwinnett County Public Schools used to blame him.

Nick Lotito, lawyer for 11-year-old Malachi Battle, said the Gwinnett school board’s decision would be appealed to the state board of education.

“I am disappointed,” Lotito said. “Hopefully the state board will get this right.”

ExploreGwinnett student challenges suspension over 'Zoom bombing' allegations

After attempts were made to log into Malachi’s classes at Couch Middle School with the abusive language in lieu of students’ names, the Gwinnett school district pulled from Zoom the Internet Protocol address of everyone in the waiting rooms and concluded Malachi was the offender, according to his lawyers.

Malachi was suspended from Feb. 26 until the end of the school year, exactly three months.

Lotito hired a forensics expert who said there were obvious errors in the IP addresses. The Zoom log listed Malachi’s public address for several people, including classmates who were not Zoom bombers and were not logging in from the same house as him, said the expert, Scott Moulton.

Moulton, who owns Forensic Strategy Services in Woodstock, also said the Zoom bombers’ local IP addresses, which pinpoint the device being used, did not match the configuration of Malachi’s router.

Lotito said he did not think the Gwinnett County Board of Education considered Moulton’s report.

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The school board discussed Malachi’s appeal and other disciplinary matters in closed session Thursday, pursuant to state and federal privacy laws. The school district has declined to comment on the case, citing the same laws. Lotito provided documentation of Malachi’s suspension, his appeal and board’s decision.

Malachi’s family said they are looking into private schools for next year, but they are fighting to clear his name and expunge the incident from his record.