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Punishment for Web posting violated student's free speech, judge finds

By The Associated Press

12.02.02

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WATERFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A federal judge has ruled that a school district violated a student's rights to free speech and due process when it suspended him for posting "intimidation and threats" on the Internet.

The Waterford School District should not have suspended the student in August 2001 for contributing to "Satan's Web page," U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan ruled this week.

School officials were concerned by content that included a passage labeled "Satan's mission for you this week." It read: "Stab someone for no reason then set them on fire throw them off of a cliff, watch them suffer and with their last breath, just before everything goes black, spit on their face."

The student, who was not identified, was suspended after a hearing in which he wasn't allowed to cross-examine witnesses and could not be represented by an attorney, said his lawyer, Richard Landau.

The student sued the district, seeking damages of up to $75,000. He has since graduated from a school in a neighboring district.

School representatives and the attorney representing the district did not return phone calls seeking comment on Nov. 27.

Related

Oregon teen expelled over off-color Web site sues school district
Legal experts say such cases illustrate the tension between free speech, school safety.  01.25.03

Pennsylvania high court upholds student's expulsion over Web site
Court said that while it didn't appear that 14-year-old intended to hurt teacher, the site disrupted school environment, which justified the expulsion.  09.27.02

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