Kyle Thompson, 14, was sitting in class this March when a friend grabbed a sheet of paper labeled "Hit List" out of Thompson's notebook.
"It was titled 'Hit List', but it wasn't really to hurt anybody," Thompson said in the video above released this week by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Thompson claims the "hit list" was actually a list of friends whom he wanted to hit on the football field, according to the ACLU of Michigan.
Thompson said he and the teacher engaged in what he thought was a friendly game of tug-of-war with the paper, before he eventually let go.
The list was not what got Thompson in trouble. It was the tug-of-war that landed him with an expulsion of 180 school days from Harrison High School in Farmington, Mich.
Thompson's teacher claimed the student assaulted her. The teen was arrested, handcuffed and taken to the police station. He may also face jail time if he's convicted of assault.
According to the ACLU of Michigan, Harrison High School has a "zero tolerance" policy that mandates expulsion for any student accused of assaulting a school employee. The policy is based on a statewide law that encourages tough penalties for certain types of misbehavior. Thompson is barred from attending any public school in Michigan for a year and he is also banned from any school-related activities, like sports.
The Huffington Post was unable to reach a school representative for comment, but Farmington Public Schools' superintendent Susan Zurvalec released this statement to MyFox Detroit:
"Farmington Public Schools is prohibited by federal confidentiality laws from disclosing information of this type or even acknowledging if an incident like this occurred. The issue raised in this petition presents an opportunity for citizens to examine zero tolerance laws in Michigan. The state legislature has mandated that an assault by a student against a teacher requires a one-year expulsion from all public schools within the state.
This is known as a zero tolerance law.
In Farmington, we strive to consider each student and any incident separately and individually, taking all facts and circumstances into account. The zero tolerance law passed by our legislature takes that ability away from us and requires all assaults to be treated the same. It is up to state policy makers to revise these zero tolerance laws, and until that happens, we will continue to follow our legal mandates as they are."
Rodd Monts, field director for the ACLU of Michigan, thinks that labeling the incident as an assault is excessive.
"To see him expelled and arrested is pretty sad," Monts told The Huffington Post. "We have an opportunity to use this incident to make a call to reform the zero tolerance statute. We need to look more seriously at how we deal with misconduct appropriately in ways that students learn from that allows them to stay in school and complete their education."
Thompson's mom Lisa told Monts her son is very depressed and isolated as a result of the expulsion.
"It's a significant setback to miss an entire year of school and not have contact with friends or to participate in any school-related activities," Monts said. "This kid is suffering as a result of that."
A call to the Farmington Police Department was not returned.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story identified the list incorrectly. It was labeled 'hit list'.