Suppressed Free Speech T-Shirts
Verboten In Douchebagville
U.S. 2nd Cicruit
Court of Appeals
Gets Another Chance
To Right Wrongs
Perpetrated By Douche Bag School Bosses
Jan. 12, 2010
Moynihan Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, New York, N.Y.
Doninger case goes back to court
Sunday, January 10, 2010
By DAVID HUTTER
A lawsuit sparked by a Lewis Mills High School graduate’s fight with administrators about free speech will continue with a court hearing on Tuesday in New York City.
Avery Doninger was a junior and class secretary at Lewis Mills High School in Burlington in the spring of 2007. She 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.
Doninger was angry with their decision, and used her personal computer to criticize them. 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.
Doninger filed a lawsuit accusing Niehoff and Schwartz of violating her freedom of speech. On Tuesday at the United States Court of Appeals, the school administrators’ lawyer will seek to convince the judge not to grant a trial on the matter involving school administrators confiscating t-shirts Doninger made after she was initially punished. Doninger’s lawyer will seek to convince the judge to grant a trial.
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.
In federal district court, Doninger lost a motion for injunction based on the court’s decision that school discipline was permissible for Doninger’s off-campus comment because it incited students and disrupted the school environment, based on the decision.
Besides the fight about freedom of speech, the case raises questions about whether school districts are allowed to discipline students for off-campus actions. After Doninger was prohibited from being a class officer in her senior year, she created t-shirts emblazoned with messages supporting her free-speech campaign.
Lauren Doninger, mother of Avery, said that school adminstrators were wrong to punish her daughter. Avery used her own computer from her house after school when she criticized the administrators. “There is no intersection between the school district’s right to discipline her and my rights to discipline her (for her actions) at 9:30 at night at home. I am responsible for her. ... As the lower court ruled, she did not disrupt school in any way. Her online comments irritated some thin-skinned administrators.”
Avery graduated from Lewis Mills in 2008, spent a year volunteering with a humanitarian organization, and is now a freshman at Eastern Connecticut State University, her mother said. Additionally, Avery volunteers with a soup kitchen and a shelter in Willimantic, her mother said.
“I am very proud of her,” Lauren said. “We will pursue the lawsuit to the Supreme Court if need be.”
The United States Second Court of Appeals will hear the appeals of both parties on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the 9th Floor Ceremonial Courtroom located in the Moynihan Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, New York, N.Y.
An effort to reach Niehoff late Saturday was not successful.
David Hutter can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org