CHICAGO (CBS) — A high school junior says he was expelled from school for merely witnessing a fight.  Now he’s suing to clear his name and get back into school, CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports.

For two years, Coris Ashford was a proud Proviso East High School student, but that all changed this past May when he witnessed a fight in one of the school’s hallways. A kid was knocked out and he himself was “at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Ashford says.

He was suspended for 10 days, accused of being part of what the school called a “mob action.”  His mother, Erica Edmond, couldn’t understand it.

“I repeatedly asked for video footage show me what my child did,” she said.

Not only was her request denied, three months later she was shocked to received a letter saying her son had been expelled for a year. 

“That’s severe punishment to me,” she says.

Attorneys now representing the family pro bono in a lawsuit against the school agree.

“Students have rights. They have rights to have a certain amount of process and to have notice and a hearing that’s substantive, and Coris was denied that opportunity,” says Megan E. Thibert-Ind of McDermott Will & Emery LLP.

While Coris awaits the legal outcome, he’s attending an alternative school in Chicago, which entails a 45-minute commute and a walk through what he and his mother call a dangerous neighborhood.

He says he’s worried about getting shot. His mother is just as worried.

“There’s a lot of shooting in the area, so we’re basically on the phone in the morning from the bus ride, and then until he arrives to the school in the front door and he says ‘Mom, I’m here,’” Erica Edmond says.

She says she can’t rest easy until she hears those words.

Ashford and his mother are seeking an unspecified monetary amount for the loss of his high school education, the cost of attending an alternative school and their pain and suffering. But they say it’s not about the money, it’s really about clearing his name so this won’t haunt him as he applies to colleges. 

Calls and emails to Proviso East High School seeking comment on the lawsuit were not returned.