A state judge Monday tossed out a lawsuit filed by a former Lee High student who wanted the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board to reverse his December expulsion and pay him damages.

An attorney for Assaad "Charlie" Mawas Stephens said he'll refile the damages portion of the lawsuit next month.

Stephens, who was a senior and the magnet school's student government president, was expelled after school administrators say they found a knife and evidence of marijuana in his car.

The School Board in February unanimously affirmed his expulsion. Stephens filed his lawsuit in April, hoping to overturn the board's decision and graduate with his 2019 class the following month. That never happened.

District Judge Mike Caldwell on Monday dismissed the suit without prejudice, saying it was not served on the proper parties. If he had not thrown out the suit on that ground, the judge noted, he would have dismissed it on the ground that Stephens' administrative appeal was not timely filed.

Stephens' attorney, William E. LeBlanc, did not attend Monday's brief hearing in the case but said afterward by telephone that Caldwell's ruling doesn't prevent him from refiling the suit to pursue damages for his client.

Stephens' lawsuit alleged, and LeBlanc reiterated Monday, that the school system failed to give Stephens a chance to cross-examine the school's witnesses at his disciplinary hearing last December.

The lawsuit alleges that a hearing officer told Stephens he could tell his side of the story but "at no time are you to direct any questions, comments, and/or concerns to the other party."

LeBlanc said that directive robbed Stephens of his fundamental right to face his accusers.

"The right to face your accuser is one of the most important rights," LeBlanc said. "He was deprived of that right."

Stephens, who had been voted "Mr. Lee High" by his classmates, changed schools after he was expelled, received his diploma and is now attending LSU.

Stephens has said he was one of four students who had their cars searched on Dec. 6, and were quickly expelled because of what was found during those searches. The hearing officer later overturned two of those four expulsions.

The searches grew out of an investigation of another student who was allegedly seen openly vaping in a classroom on Dec. 6; that student denied the allegation, was searched and nothing was found on him.

School officials, however, say they reviewed video and noticed that earlier in the day that student walked into a bathroom, and that four other students, including Stephens, were in the bathroom with him for “a good period of time,” according to one administrator’s statement. The school then summoned the four students to the office for questioning.

Once in the office, administrators had the students empty their pockets and searched their backpacks.

In Stephens’ backpack, they found what one administrator described as “pieces that are used for vaping.” Stephens said they were empty pods for a JUUL e-cigarette he bought after his 18th birthday, the legal age to vape in Louisiana.

That discovery nevertheless prompted school administrators to search his car as well.

Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.