ACLU of Ohio Urges School to Rescind Punishment for Student Who Criticized School in Off-Campus Postings

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
May 6, 2004 12:00 am

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CLEVELAND — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today sent a letter to Lancaster City Schools’ Interim Superintendent on behalf of the family of a student who was suspended and is currently being expelled for creating a website that skewers school administrators and staff. The website was created and maintained off school grounds, using no school resources.

“”While teachers and administrators may not always approve of what students put up on the Internet, they must recognize that this is constitutionally protected speech, for which students may not be punished,”” said Gary Daniels, Litigation Coordinator for the ACLU of Ohio.

The ACLU letter, written on behalf of the family of Thomas Seifert and sent to Interim Superintendent Dora Jean Bumgarner, states that Lancaster City Schools has no legal authority to punish Seifert for exercising his right to free speech under the First Amendment.

The letter also strongly urges the school system to take all necessary and immediate steps to rescind all past and ongoing disciplinary measures taken against Seifert, and asks that Seifert be given a legitimate opportunity to make up course work he has missed as a result of his suspension and expulsion.

“As long as there are schools, there will be students complaining about school faculty, and in these times, many such complaints find their way to cyberspace,”” Daniels said. “When students engage in this type of activity off of school grounds, their thoughts, words and actions are just as constitutionally protected as they would be if they were talking on a street corner or over the telephone.”

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