Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Avery’s Midterm Exam - Civics for Douchebags

The New York Gang

As big bad school nightmares go, everyone has the one where you sleep through the alarm and miss the big exam. And everyone has the one where you’re the only kid naked at the class assembly. But how about the one where you call the superintendent a “douchebag” on your blog and it ends up being debated in federal court? That’s the personal nightmare of seventeen-year-old Avery Doninger, whose case came up this week before the justices of the US Second Circuit.

Avery, her mother and her grandmother came to the imposing new Moynihan building yesterday to watch her attorney, Jon Schoenhorn, argue her case before three august lady justices. On the surface, what’s at stake is Avery’s claim to the office of secretary of her class, the senior class at Lewis S. Mills High School in Burlington, Connecticut. But the leviathan below the surface is the First Amendment, and a student’s right to say what she wants on her own blog with her own computer from her own home.

Last April, school administrators moved to cancel “Jamfest,” a battle of the bands Avery had been organizing. On her blog that evening, her post read “Jamfest is canceled due to douchebags in central office.” Very little came of it until a few days later when the son of Superintendent Paula Schwartz found the posting while trolling the internet on behalf of his mother. (If a tree falls in cyberspace, it doesn’t make a sound until someone Googles it.)

Avery won the class election last spring with write-in ballots, but school officials withheld her right to serve, on the basis of comments she made to her personal blog one night on her home computer.

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