Under Threat of ACLU Lawsuit, Providence School Readmits Student Suspended For Photographing Principal

March 23, 2005 12:00 am

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PROVIDENCE, RI-Under pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, administrators at Central High School today agreed to allow sophomore Eliazar Velasquez to return to school after suspending him for posting photographs of the school principal on a personal Web site. The photographs depicted principal Elaine Almagno smoking a cigarette on school grounds, in direct violation of state law.

“We are pleased that the school has recognized Eliazar’s clear First Amendment right to make these photographs available to the public and to express his own personal opinions on his Web site,” said ACLU of Rhode Island Executive Director Steven Brown.

Velasquez contacted the ACLU yesterday morning after being suspended indefinitely on Friday. According to the notice he was given, Velasquez was suspended for “harassment and slander of the principal via the Internet.” Velasquez was also scheduled to attend a hearing later this week where he faced potential expulsion for the rest of the year.

Following a phone call from the ACLU, administrators decided to cancel the scheduled hearing and try to resolve the matter. After first demanding that Velasquez remove the Web site as a condition of readmittance, the school agreed late yesterday to immediately reinstate him unconditionally. Today the school further agreed to remove from his school file any record of the suspension.

The student’s Web site at http://centralscoop.tripod.com, featured seven photographs of Almagno smoking, as well as commentary by Velasquez criticizing the principal for breaking the law.

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