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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"...but I'll defend to death your right to say it."

A Quote Not Honored by Northwest Allen County Schools Administrators

The Journal-Gazette's Kelly Soderlund wrote today about a young man who got an early lesson in the overweaning power of the state from the insecure administrators at Northwest Allen County Schools.

The Northwest Allen County Schools expelled the founder of the Allen County Teen Age Republicans for words. Presumably the administrators don't get so upset when Eminem lyrics blast from a car in the parking lot at Carroll High School.

School Board member Ron Felger strikes a reasoned tone. The School Board will get a chance to judge the adminstrators' judgment next month.

More: Fort Wayne Observed posts here and here.
Northwest Allen County Schools Board members here.
Other blogs post on the matter here and here.
Mike Sylvester, candidate for Northwest Allen County School Board, to post editorial January 18th here.

It is a sad day in The NACS district when the School District says that "The First Amendment does not apply on School computers."

Mike Sylvester
It seems to me that its more of a proportionality issue than a constitutionality issue. Without looking anything up, my recollection is that schools have the right to restrict speech that is “disruptive to the educational process” or some such thing. Obviously, there is a lot of wiggle room there. I think a very important issue here is what, specifically, the kid said about the administrators, teachers, and fellow students. Suppose he called the principal a “fucking asshole” and his homeroom teacher a “stupid whore” and one of his classmates a “fat bitch.” (these are completely made up–nothing online even hints at what the book said about these people–what he wrote could be more benign, or could be worse. It is worth noting that the relatively sympathetic school board member described some of the comments as “way out of line.”). I presume no one would argue that the First Amendment requires the school to look the other way when such things are said aloud or written on the chalkboard of an empty clasroom, right? Forbidding a school from punishing such speech would likely lead to the disruption of the educational process. So, if something would be sanctionable if said aloud, it stands to reason that a book produced and distributed at school could contain speech that is worthy of punishment because of its disruptive effect. I think it would be different if the comments were on a weblog or in a publication produced and distributed off-site.

What stands out in this case is the apparent disparity between the punishment and the crime. Full-blown expulsion seems pretty harsh for mere words. It seems like a case in which the administrators may have overreacted, possibly for personal reasons.

A final caveat is to keep in mind that privacy issues make it difficult for a school to defend itself when these things play out in the media. We don’t know the kid’s disciplinary record or whatever aggravating circumstances might have existed, and it would be illegal for the school to discuss those issues.
His book, "Carroll" is modeled after Jon Stewarts "America: A Citizen's Guide To Democracy Inaction"

It's a book that makes fun of the American Government, and the way it is run. There shouldn't be anything in "Carroll" meritting total expulsion. Possibly a few days of In School Suspension if it had been spread around the school, but not expulsion.
This appears to be a classic case of school administration being devoid of common sense. I don't know what the cause of this infliction is, but NWAC schools does not have a monopoly on it. Ocasionally a decision is taken by school administration, such as this, that makes me wonder...what were you thinking...

A few instances of this in FWCS recently..

School administrator taking a switch blade away from a student....then allowing him to retrieve it at the end of the day.

School administrator catching high school male students mooning a camera in a shower room..... Then developing the film to be used later in expulsion hearings.

Beleve it or not bad decisions like this is the exception, not the rule... Keep in mind most educators have the kids interest in mind, we just dont see the good decisions in the press.
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