Doninger case to be heard in New Haven
Friday, October 31, 2008
2:01 AM EDT
By DAVID HUTTER
A Region 10 school district student who filed a lawsuit accusing two administrators of violating her freedom of speech will have her case heard by a judge in New Haven on Nov. 12.
Avery Doninger was a junior and class secretary at Lewis Mills High School in the spring of 2007 and was working to prepare a music concert as part of her duty as a student government official. High School Principal Karissa Niehoff and then-superintendent of schools Paula Schwartz decided to cancel the planned musical concert, as a result of a scheduling problems. The administrators learned that Doninger called them "(expletive) in central office" on her personal Internet blog. The administrators punished Doninger by prohibiting her from running for a class officer during her senior year.
Christine Chinni, a lawyer representing Niehoff and Schwartz, declined to comment specifically on a possible outcome of the case.
Jon Schoenhorn, a lawyer representing Doninger, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Lauren Doninger, the mother of Avery Doninger, said she will be at the hearing at the United States District Court in New Haven.
Avery graduated from Lewis Mills High School in June 2008 and is serving a humanitarian organization for one year, she said.
Avery was helping to clean up a coastal Texas town that was damaged by Hurricane Ike, her mother said.
"Originally, we wanted her to be able to serve as secretary," Lauren Doninger said. "This is a very fundamental first amendment issue. Her involvement with the student government was her varsity sport. ... I am plenty capable of disciplining Avery."
Lauren Doninger decries the notion of the school system restricting student expression and enacting discipline on students who criticize the educational leaders.
She said that her daughter created a Lewis Mills High School club to support the Darfuri people and has spoken to the state legislature.
"She ruffled some feathers of some thin-skinned administrators," Lauren Doninger said.
Judge Mark Kravitz is scheduled to hear the two parties present information about the case.
The plaintiff is scheduled to present an objection to the defendant’s motion for summary judgement.
A lower court ruled that the school district was allowed to prevent Doninger from running for the class office and also ruled that Doninger’s blog constituted "on-campus speech," even though she did not use it on school property.
Schwartz announced her retirement in the early summer of 2007 and stayed on in the position until January 2008, when the school district hired a successor in Alan Beitman.
David Hutter can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com