Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fight For Justice Goes On

Temporary Setback In Civil Rights Case

Disappointment for Doninger

The Bristol Press

NEW HAVEN - U.S. District Court Judge Mark Kravitz denied Avery Doninger's request for a temporary injunction to overturn her high school election results Friday, but the Burlington teenager isn't giving up her fight.

Doninger alleges Lewis S. Mills High School Principal Karissa Niehoff and Region 10 Superintendent Paula Schwartz violated her First Amendment right to free speech when they banned her from running for Class of 2008 secretary after she posted an offensive reference to school officials on a blog site from her home computer.

"I'm disappointed, but it is one judge's opinion, like [Kravitz himself] said. This is a new issue and hasn't really been addressed by the courts," Doninger said.

Doninger's attorney, John Schoenhorn, is filing an appeal in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

"We are deeply disappointed with the judge's ruling," Schoenhorn said. "We think it creates a precedent exception to free speech."

Region 10 attorney Christine Chinni said the defense always believed the law was on their side and that her clients are pleased with the judge's ruling.

"The district is looking forward to the beginning of the new school year," Chinni said.

Regarding the appeal, Region 10 will defend Schwartz and Niehoff just as it did for the preliminary injunction hearing, she said.

Kravitz, who was appointed by President George W. Bush Jr., closed the hearing in U.S. District Court Friday at 5 p.m. Forty-five minutes later, he posted a 34-page document of his ruling, which ultimately found Schoenhorn didn't provide enough evidence to justify an immediate injunction.

While Kravitz described Doninger as a poised, intelligent and articulate senior, he said she has learned the lesson that there are consequences for bloggers.
The full decision can be found online at

Doninger's mother, Lauren, said she was grateful that Kravitz made time to hear their case and felt he listened attentively.

"The issue is so big. I think it's an important question during these days of changing technology," she said. "I'm disappointed, but it's part of the process. The issue is worthy of the full extent of the judicial process."

Before closing the hearing, Kravitz said the issue of the Internet and schools is "just coming to the floor, not only for the schools but also for the courts."

"I think it's important to realize that there are no villains in this case. I think Avery, in her heart of hearts, is a good citizen and student, and the educators are not tyrants bent on squelching anyone who criticizes them," Kravitz said. "I'm going to make the best decision I can, but I feel we'll [need] guidance, maybe from the Supreme Court."


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