Free Speech Party
by Christine Stuart
October 14, 2007
Lewis S. Mills High School student, Avery Doninger, said she knows a lot more people now than she did before filing a civil rights lawsuit against school officials and a crowded room at the Litchfield Inn Sunday seemed to prove it.
More than a hundred of Doninger’s old friends and new acquaintances showed up Sunday to help her raise money to continue her legal battle against school officials, who removed her as class secretary and banned her from running for re-election after discovering she called them “douchebags ” in an online journal.
In August, U.S. District Court Judge Mark R. Kravitz denied Doninger’s request for an preliminary injunction against school officials, but her attorney Jon Schoenhorn said Sunday that he will appeal the case to the Second Circuit Court in New York. He said the goal is to get Doninger reinstated as class secretary by the end of the year, so she can speak at graduation in 2008.
This case, “has a chilling effect on the first amendment rights of students who now have to be afraid to speak out in their own homes,” Schoenhorn said. “What kind of citizen does that [build]?”
Poets and writers from across the state came to read their most incendiary works in support of Doninger and her cause.
Amy Ma, the youngest poet in attendance, said she met Doninger about a month ago and the two are now Facebook friends. She said Doninger is an “extremely engaged” young woman who knows the difference between “shouldn’t have said something and doesn’t have the right to say something.”
Ma, who is working towards her teaching certificate, said for a school administrator to go into a student’s personal blog and use the things she’s written about against her is wrong.
Overwhelmed by the turnout Sunday, Avery said she didn’t think the fundraiser or the lawsuit was going to be as “big” as it was. She said she has a greater appreciation of her civil rights and wants to make sure other kids know they are protected by the first amendment. She said before the lawsuit she knew she had rights, “I just never had to use them to defend myself.”
To read more about the party check out Aldon Hynes’ blog Orient-Lodge.com or Andy Thibault’s blog The Cool Justice Report.