LeBeau bill would protect
students’ free speech rights
By Don Michak
Published: Thursday, January 29, 2009 1:36 PM EST
HARTFORD — A legislative committee chairman who for decades was a high school teacher in East Hartford is proposing to prohibit school systems in Connecticut from punishing students for their off-campus electronic correspondence.
Sen. Gary D. LeBeau, the Democrat from East Hartford who co-chairs the General Assembly’s Commerce Committee, said today that he was spurred to introduce his bill by the nationally publicized case of Avery Doninger, a former Burlington high school student disciplined for a 2007 Internet posting she wrote from her home.
“I strongly believe in the First Amendment,” the lawmaker said. “And after what school administrators did in the Doninger case, what’s needed is a bright line of where the state — since the school was acting on behalf of the state — can impinge on the rights of individuals. I think they overstepped in this case.
“As long as a message like hers is not sent directly to a school, or if she is not using school equipment, this young person and everyone else has a right to say what they think,” he added. “Unfortunately, the way she said it was pretty offensive, but that happens — and that’s sometimes the very speech that needs to be protected.”