* "I am writing to vehemently disagree with your handling of the recent case involving [deleted]. By removing her from her position in student government, you've embarrassed yourself, done a great disservice to Lewis Mills High School, and to every educator in this country ... If you are … unable to cope with changing technology, then I suggest you step down from your post, for the good of your school, your students, and the entire teaching profession."
* Another Niehoff pen pal told the principal he did not think she was a douche bag, only a jerk. Citing Niehoff's actions, Walker characterized the principal as "idiotic, Stalinistic, moronic, and over-reaching ... I hope this girl takes you and the school district to the cleaners in court for a few million bucks."
* "You took the actions you did because you are a coward and you attempted to exact the only punishment you [thought] you could do to get revenge for her comments about you ... The students voted her that Class Secretary Position … NOT YOU! The student body is the only deciding factor in whether she should be class secretary … good luck holding on to your job … "
Truth Catching Up
With The Diabolical Douche Bag Gang
FOI Complaint Cites New Evidence
To Impose Fines And Re-Open Cases
In Which Schwartz, Chinni
Denied These Public Records Existed
By ANDY THIBAULT
The Cool Justice Report
June 25, 2008
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
Burlington, CT - More emails from the account of the principal in The Famous Douche Bag Case have surfaced. They are among emails the former school superintendent and her lawyer said did not exist. The tone and substance of the letters -- which mock the principal, suggest she resign and call her "Stalanist" and "moronic" -- show motive to suppress the public records.
The emails were requested on Aug. 1, 2007 and should have been produced on that day. They are all dated July 17, 2007.
To correct this fraud upon the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission and the citizens of Connecticut, a complaint has been filed citing the new evidence. The complaint demands that three adjudicated cases be re-opened and that fines be imposed.
It is believed that a number of other emails also will surface soon.
Former Superintendent Paula Schwartz and her lawyer, Christine Chinni, were cited on June 11 for breaking the Connecticut Freedom of Information Law several times in 2007. They censored public records and failed to produce public records in a timely manner. Those documents included legal bills, insurance company records and write-in ballots from a stolen election. Schwartz and Chinni initially refused to produce the write-in ballots, saying copies of the ballots did not exist. The ruse was exposed, ultimately resulting in an admonishment for Chinni.
Even at the June 11 FOI Commission meeting, Chinni refused to acknowledge the existence of the emails she helped suppress.
FOI Commission Chairman Andrew O'Keefe called Chinni's shell game / deception / lies related to the write-in ballots offensive and warned her: "With regard to this copy of a copy of an original, that is offensive. I would never want to see a request denied on that basis."
Discussion at the June 11 meeting also included Chinni's evasion of a subpoena to testify before the FOI Commission, her stated commitment to testify and be subjected to cross-examination and her last-minute notice that she would refuse to testify. Those are among issues which will be brought to the Legislature's Judiciary Committee for review and action.
The newly-discovered emails, to Lewis Mills High School Principal Karissa Niehoff, were released by the new superintendent, Alan Beitman.
"I understand," Beitman said in a letter to me dated June 18, "that you had expressed the belief during the meeting of the full [FOI] Commission that there were electronic mail messages responsive to one of your requests in the possession of the Board that had not been provided to you … In the course of my review of records in another matter, however, I did come across several electronic messages of complaint received by Lewis Mills High School Principal Karissa Niehoff … "
Niehoff was suspended without pay for two days earlier this month after Beitman discovered she violated the Family Education Right and Privacy Act and the Professional Code of Conduct of the State of Connecticut for School Administrators. A defendant in a free speech lawsuit brought by graduating senior Avery Doninger, Niehoff made unsubstantiated and undocumented allegations against Doninger in a number of letters.
Schwartz, Niehoff and Chinni suppressed the election results in which Doninger was elected Secretary of the Class of 2008 by write-in vote. They had banned Doninger from running for re-election after she and other students sought community support to hold a popular battle of the bands known as Jamfest. Schwartz, angered and upset by community input, cancelled Jamfest. Doninger wrote about that on her personal blog, referring to the douche bags in the central office.
Schwartz ultimately rescheduled the event. Her 36-year-old son later found Doninger's post and another one calling the superintendent "a dirty whore." Only Doninger was punished. The other student received an award at graduation last year and was praised for her citizenship.
One of the Niehoff letters was sent in May of this year. That was the one generating the suspension.
Among the suppressed emails was another.
On July 18, 2007, Niehoff wrote to University of Colorado doctoral student Bryan R. Jones, saying, in part, "You do not know the entire story regarding Avery's situation … The story … in the media … is not accurate, nor does it address the multitude of incidences [sic] for which Avery has been warned … "
Jones had written to Niehoff the day before: "I am writing to vehemently disagree with your handling of the recent case involving [deleted]. By removing her from her position in student government, you've embarrassed yourself, a done a great disservice to Lewis Mills High School, and to every educator in this country. Additionally, you've violated the rights of a student and a U.S. citizen. What a student chooses to say off school grounds is of no concern to you, nor should it ever affect that student's standing in school (unless we are talking about threatened violence). Your iron-fisted tactics reek of an inability to face a changing world, in which communication between persons is far less private … The precedent you seek to set is a dangerous one … administrators will feel free to mine the internet for rude or distasteful comments, and punish those that made such comments. School faculty will have a new weapon through which they can pursue personal vendettas … "If you are … unable to cope with changing technology, then I suggest you step down from your post, for the good of your school, your students, and the entire teaching profession."
Another Niehoff pen pal, Ubu Walker, told the principal he did not think she was a douche bag, only a jerk. Citing Niehoff's actions, Walker characterized the principal as "idiotic, Stalinistic, moronic, and over-reaching ... I hope this girl takes you and the school district to the cleaners in court for a few million bucks."
Curiously, Walker also footnoted the definition of douche bag from urbandictionary.com: "an individual who has an over-inflated sense of self worth, accompanied by a low level of [intelligence] … "
The other email released this week by Beitman was a from a database programmer, Ed DeBord. DeBoard said: " … You have completely overstepped your boundaries because a student offended you on an OFF CAMPUS PUBLIC blog … You took the actions you did because you are a coward and you attempted to exact the only punishment you [thought] you could do to get revenge for her comments about you. You have no jurisdiction outside that campus or classroom. You know this … The students voted her that Class Secretary Position … NOT YOU! The student body is the only deciding factor in whether she should be class secretary … good luck holding on to your job … Your leadership is not functional and has just been tested by [deleted] … she has the fortitude to stand up for herself and express herself and not back down when she is challenged and she knows she is right. Any parent would be proud of that. You should be too instead of punishing her for something you have no control over."
The Doningers are seeking -- among other remedies -- an apology for civil rights violations, recognition of the write-in victory and sharing of the secretary position with the administration-backed candidate.
New Haven U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz denied a motion for a preliminary injunction [immediate relief] last fall and his ruling was appealed to the Second Circuit in New York. That appeal was denied May 29. A full trial is expected on the issues in New Haven U.S. District Court.
In Stolen Election
Freedom Of Information Report.
Scales of Justice
By AVERY DONINGER
This year I have come to understand why liberty and justice are symbolized with scales. There is much to be balanced and decisions can weigh heavy. Since May 2007, a series of good and bad decisions, made not only by me, but also by others, has led me on a journey filled with risk and rich in learning opportunities.
The first decision that I made reflected positively on my character. I invested myself fully in student government and worked diligently in my elected positions. Frustrated over scheduling snags and short-notice cancellation of a school event (Jamfest), I went home and posted a blog on an obscure Live Journal page. In the blog I encouraged people to petition our administration -- a good decision; it was political speech. The bad decision was the opening line, "Jamfest is cancelled due to the douchebags in central office." Not my finest moment.
Along with other student leaders I rallied community support for Jamfest and the event was rescheduled. However, my decision to use an unsavory term was still sitting out there on the scales of justice, waiting to be weighed. A month after the scheduling was resolved, an administrator stumbled across my blog. Consequently, the principal punished me. She said I had to apologize to the superintendent, tell my mother, step down from all leadership positions, and withdraw my candidacy for secretary of the Class of 2008 (I had been secretary for three years). This was when the lessons from my civics class became increasingly relevant to my life. I agreed to the principal's first two requirements, but I refused the third.
The school administrator's had their own scales of justice -- my opinion did not tip the balance, and the punishment was final. Efforts to negotiate with the administrators were refused. A write-in campaign by my peers (I won a plurality of votes) was ignored; and "Team Avery, Support LSM Freedom of Speech" t-shirts were confiscated (illegal according to Tinker). As I researched civil rights and school law, my scale tipped, and I filed a lawsuit. This was a hard decision; I've never been in trouble: I am an engaged student, yet I did use an unsavory word. My mother also put my word choice on her scale of justice. She found my comment rude, sophomoric, and below the standards she has set. My mother's verdict, as one commentator put it, "Avery, you're grounded and we're going to the Supreme Court" (Colin McEnroe, October 2, 2007, WTIC am 1080).
At age 16 I became a citizen fully engaged in the democratic process. I filed for injunctive relief: not suing for money but for justice. I testified for four hours in federal court; I have done tons of print and broadcast interviews; I have spoken to large audiences about my story and the First Amendment rights; and I was the poster child for Poets and Writers for Free Speech. I have learned the big cases decided by the Supreme Court as well as how my case is distinguished. Most important, however, are the lessons that have become apart of me.
I believe in democracy. I believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I believe that each citizen is responsible for participating in the maintenance of democracy by challenging government officials when they overreach. The principal accused me of a failing to be a good citizen. I disagree. Apathy and passivity are poor citizenship. Rallying students and the community to petition the government is good citizenship. I failed at vocabulary, not citizenship. However, the First Amendment does not limit protection to those with sophisticated vocabularies (though I will not make the error of rudeness again).
Democracy is a gift that Americans have inherited, but it requires maintenance and vigilance. Democracy needs to be retained at the lowest levels if we are to have a democracy at the highest levels. If as citizens we refuse to defend liberty in our own backyards, how do we expect to bring democracy to Iraq or Korea or any place suffering under tyranny? Civil liberties are eroded slowly when citizens don't bother to insist on challenging unconstitutional practices. Citizens, particularly students who are the next generation of leaders, must be willing to take on the responsibility of maintaining and protecting democracy while enjoying the rights democracy affords.
Eventually, the scales of justice will determine whether students have speech rights off campus in the age of the Internet and whether there is a difference between shouldn't have said and didn't have the right to say. No matter the outcome in court, I am proud that I was willing to engage in the democratic and judicial processes. I will continue to defend civil rights, to think critically, and to consider the ramifications of my word choices. While I don't plan to live my life according to bumper stickers, I am going to think globally and act locally.
JUNE 25, 2008 COMPLAINT TO FOI COMMISSION
P.O. Box 1415
Litchfield, CT 06759
* Cellular 860-690-0211 * Fax- 860-567-9119
EDITOR & PUBLISHER
The Cool Justice Report
June 25, 2008
State Freedom of Information Commission
18-20 Trinity St.
Hartford, CT 06106
RE: New Evidence In
Case Nos. FIC 2007-418, 2007-421, and 2007-458
COMPLAINT TO IMPOSE FINES, RE-OPEN CASES
Dear Ms. or Sir:
Please note correspondence and emails faxed to you on Tuesday: Alan Beitman cover sheet and three emails responsive to Aug. 1, 2007 and related requests.
Existence of these emails and others has been denied repeatedly by the respondent Paula Schwartz and her attorney, Christine Chinni.
Please correct this fraud upon the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission and the citizens of Connecticut. Re-open the cases, demand production of all emails and other documents requested since Aug. 1, 2007 via a legitimate authority such as the new superintendent, fine the guilty parties $1,000 in each case and take other corrective measures as appropriate. Also, please note the admonition by the FOI Chairman O'Keefe to Chinni during the June 11, 2008 meeting.
Copies to: Statewide Grievance Committee, Legislature's Judiciary Committee, Gov. Rell