The Significance Of The Bentley Letter
Time For Other Whistleblowers To Come Forward
By ANDY THIBAULT
The Cool Justice Report
Jan. 24, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
aka, The Nexus of
Burlington's Lewis Mills High School
/ U.S. District Court New Haven, Courtroom Four -
U.S. District Court Judge Mark "Travesty" Kravitz erred in granting qualified immunity to Region 10 school bosses, who demonstrated consciousness of guilt and knew they were acting illegally by violating the free speech rights of Avery Doninger.
Former Superintendent Paula Schwartz and Principal Karissa Niehoff displayed consciousness of guilt by concocting the false claim of a disruption resulting from Doninger's protected [theoretically, anyway] speech.
Travesty Kravitz admits as much in his Jan. 15, 2009 ruling:
1. - "The [court] agrees with Ms. Doninger that there is evidence in the record - particularly when viewed in the light most favorable to her - that suggests that Ms. Niehoff may have punished Ms. Doninger because the blog entry was offensive and uncivil and not because of any potential disruption at school." Page 11.
2. - "The timing of Ms. Doninger's punishment in this case, together with Ms. Niehoff's testimony, creates a disputed issue of material fact as to the [defendant's] true motivation for punishing Ms. Doninger." Page 12.
But, Travesty Kravitz continues to make excuses for the douche bag school bosses and gives them a walk whenever possible.
Qualified immunity protects public officials - even when they violate the law - if their lawyers can persuade an accommodating judge that they didn't know precisely what they were doing, as, in this case, when they stomped on the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
Now comes additional evidence of consciousness of guilt by the douche bag school bosses, from courageous teacher Paul Bentley. In his Jan. 22, 2009 letter published in the Torrington, CT Register Citizen, Bentley said: "The school never was impacted to any Richter degree despite the defendants' assertions to the contrary. I know, I was there."
This is a rare moment when rank and file teachers and staff can stand up to tell the truth, with a lessened fear of repercussions.
Whistleblowers, come forward.
The world is watching.
Meanwhile, Travesty Kravitz has some time to actually review and probe the facts in this case. Clearly, and unlike the Second Circuit, he remains confused about the difference between on-campus speech and the Internet.
Following is a Readers Digest version of the Doninger case:
Avery Doninger, a volunteer in the Americorps national public service program, has a civil rights trial pending in New Haven U.S. District Court. [Among her duties on the job: helping hurricane victims in Texas.]
Avery, a 2008 graduate of Lewis Mills High School in Burlington, CT, and her mother, Lauren Doninger, sued Principal Karissa Niehoff and Superintendent Paula Schwartz [now retired] after they removed Avery from the ballot for class secretary.
Avery Doninger was among a group of four students who lobbied the community for support of an annual battle of the bands sponsored by the Student Council. The student council adviser suggested the students reach out to taxpayers and the students copied the adviser an on email to the community.
Schwartz became very upset after taxpayers called her and she cancelled the event known as Jamfest. Doninger subsequently referred to administrators in a live journal blog as central office douche bags, and Schwartz's son found the posting while trolling the internet for his mother a couple weeks later. While Avery Doninger was banned from school office, another student who called Schwartz a dirty whore was given an award and lauded for citizenship.
School officials suppressed the write-in vote in which Doninger was elected by a plurality. Schwartz refused to accept Doninger's apology for her choice of words. During an assembly, Niehoff banned free-speech and Team Avery t-shirts and seized at least one shirt.
The Doningers have been seeking -- among other remedies -- an apology for civil rights violations and recognition of the write-in victory.
New Haven U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz denied a motion for a preliminary injunction [immediate relief] in August 2007. Based on errors in the record, Travesty Kravitz's injunction ruling was upheld by the U.S. Second Circuit in New York.
Travesty Kravitz held a hearing in November 2008 on Doninger's request for a trial. He cut off discussion about various frauds - including false testimony - upon the court and ultimately ordered a trial on Jan. 15, 2009. But, he limited the scope of the trial to the narrow issue of the suppression and seizure of free speech t-shirts.