Douche Bag Judge Chills Free Speech

September 10, 2007

Connecticut Post Editorial
http://www.connpost.com

The Kravitz ruling is downright dangerous
and threatening because it has the potential
to muzzle any student who utters or writes
an offensive or vulgar remark off school grounds
— anywhere and anytime — about a school system
or school official.

Judge puts a chill on student speech
09/08/2007

A recent preliminary ruling in federal court in New Haven that could trim the constitutional free-speech rights of public school students is cause for concern. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Kravitz ruled at the end of August that officials of Regional School District 10 in upstate Burlington possessed the right to punish a high school student for derogatory remarks she made about the officials even though she wrote the remark on an Internet blog and from within the confines of her own home.

Kravitz ruled that school officials were within their rights to punish the student just as if the remark were made on school grounds.

That’s a chilling ruling for any public school student who has ever Instant Messaged, e-mailed, voiced mailed or posted an Internet entry that derogatorily criticizes a school official.

The case involves Avery Doninger, a high school student in Region 10, who writes an Internet blog. In one blog that she wrote last spring after a heated student/administration dispute in her school she referred to school officials by a common but crude and vulgar description.

The blog came to the attention of school officials and they prevented Doninger from running for re-election as class secretary. Her mother sued the school district, claiming her daughter’s free speech rights had been violated.

Kravitz’s ruling did not decide the case, but it throws enough cold water on a constitutional protection to indicate how he may eventually decide, although Doninger’s lawyer is appealing this preliminary ruling.

Kravitz said Doninger’s crude insult could be construed as being made in school because it addressed school issues and was likely to be read by students at the school.

The Kravitz ruling is downright dangerous and threatening because it has the potential to muzzle any student who utters or writes an offensive or vulgar remark off school grounds — anywhere and anytime — about a school system or school official.

Kravitz conceded from the bench that the courts are still finding their way on issues relating to the Internet, blogs and off-campus speech, but his preliminary ruling certainly did not advance the cause of constitutionally-protected rights.

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