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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Libertarian Chair Mike Sylvester Commentary

Mike Sylvester, the Chairman of the Allen County Libertarian Party wrote the following editorial regarding the expulsion of Jeff Fraser from Carroll High School. Mr. Sylvester is a candidate for a seat on the Northwest Allen County Schools Board in the 2006 election.
Expelling Carroll student for writing a satire critical of school administration is outrageous.

A Carroll High School student was recently expelled for writing a ten page “satire” that was extremely critical of the Carroll High School administration.

The student in question has no record of disciplinary problems and was a strong student academically as well as being a member of the student council, band, the political club, future business leaders, and speech team. Outside of school, the student founded The Allen County Teenage Republicans.

There are many options that a school can use to discipline a student who has misbehaved in some fashion; the most extreme is expulsion for the school year. Students who are a threat to the safety of other students or who are continuous discipline problems should be removed from school; however, this student does not fit these criteria.

I find it impossible to understand how a student with no past disciplinary record can be expelled for the school year for writing a ten page “satire,” no matter how offensive it is to the administration.

There are a lot of methods the administration could have used to discipline the student for writing an offensive document on the school computer system. This is more than a free speech issue, because school rules do require considerate behavior from students. So, depending on how insulting or unfair the criticisms were, I suggest that the student be given a written warning, and the student’s parents be required to come to the school and be apprised of the entire situation. If warranted, the student should be required to apologize to those people who he offended.

This would be more than sufficient punishment for a first offense. Instead, the student can no longer attend Carroll High School and cannot be involved with the student activities that he participated in.

I attended the School Board Meeting on January 16 and listened to Carroll High School student Sam Wysong’s statement to The NACS Board. I wholeheartedly agree with his statement that “Expulsion seems like an overreaction to a first-time offender of this nature.” I hope that the school board listened to the statement as well.

I am extremely disturbed by a quote that was printed in a Journal Gazette article written by Kelly Soderlund entitled, “Carroll student expelled for satire” on January 17th. She quoted Superintendent Yager who told her that according to the NACS legal council, “First Amendment rights are not applicable when the violations are committed on school computers.”

I am not a lawyer; however, I have read the Constitution and I think that I have a pretty clear understanding of both what it specifically states and what our Founding Fathers intended. It states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Per NACS procedures, Superintendent Yager still has to approve this expulsion; hopefully, he will over-ride it and investigate why this expulsion occurred in the first place. If Superintendent Yager approves the expulsion, then the School Board will get the same opportunity to review the case.

One of the strengths of this great nation is the freedom of the press and speech. I am a proud military veteran extremely concerned about the constant erosion of our civil liberties. My children will be attending NACS and I will do everything I possibly can to ensure that they attend a strong school system that respects the Constitution.
Mike Sylvester writes the Allen County Libertarian Party weblog and can be contacted at: 260-338-0833 or by email at Mike.Sylvester@Verizon.net

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