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The good guys win: High school pays student after censoring him

[It seems to me that this decision is the correct one, and the ACLU did a 
commendable job in bringing this suit against a government-operated school. 
At the same time, it seems inconsistent and not quite right that a student 
can be punished for handing around a "Why This Teacher Sucks" flyer but not 
punished when a PDF of that flyer can be viewed on school computers once 
the word spreads. The politically-charged solution? School choice. Liberal 
parents could send their kids to anything-goes schools, while conservative 
ones would pick schools that can punish "disruptive" behavior even when it 
takes place online. Libertarian parents could go either way. :) --Declan]


To: declan@well.com
Subject: Finally, the good guys win won...
Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2001 23:23:20 -0500
From: David HM Spector <spector@zeitgeist.com>


'don't know if you've seen this, but definately of interest to the
politcech crowd: student wins $10,000 (plus $52,000 in legal fees)
after his school district suspended/persecuted him for a his parody
web page...

   David Spector


      Tuesday, February 20, 2001

SEATTLE--A former high school student who was suspended for creating a
parody on the Internet is getting damages from the school district
that wrongfully punished him, the American Civil Liberties Union
announced today.

Karl Beidler will receive $10,000 in damages from North Thurston
School District for actions it took that violated his free speech

"This case sends a message to public school administrators that they
do not have the authority to punish students for expressing their
opinions outside of school and without the use of any school
resources," said ACLU staff attorney Aaron Caplan. "The First
Amendment protects a student from being kicked out of school just
because officials don't like what the student is saying."

The award of damages follows a July, 2000 ruling by a Thurston County
Superior Court judge that public school officials cannot punish a
student for speech outside of school.

Beidler was suspended for a month in 1999 from Timberline High School
in Lacey for posting an Internet parody lampooning the school's
assistant principal. Then a junior, the student created the satire on
his own computer at home on his own time. After the ACLU got involved
in the case, he was allowed to enroll in an alternative school in the
District. Last year he returned to Timberline and graduated with his

In its ruling, the court made clear that free speech rights apply to
speech on the Internet. "Today the First Amendment protects students'
speech to the same extent as in 1979 or 1969, when the U.S. Supreme
Court decided Tinker v. Des Moines," Judge Thomas McPhee said.  In
that case, the high court issued a landmark ruling that, "Students do
not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or
expression at the schoolhouse gate."

The Beidler decision was the most recent in a series of ACLU victories
for student free speech rights in cyberspace. Earlier last year, Chief
Judge John Coughenour of the U.S. District Court in Seattle issued an
order preventing Kentlake High School from suspending student Nick
Emmett because of a Web site parody he had created on his home
computer. In final settlement of the case, Kent School District agreed
not to pursue disciplinary action against the student and paid $6,000
in attorney's fees.

In addition to the damage award in today's case, the school district
has agreed to pay $52,000 in attorney fees. ACLU cooperating attorney
Bob Hedrick provided legal representation to the student and his

David HM 
Spector                   spector@zeitgeist.com/spector@really-fast.com
President & CEO                                           voice: +1 
Really Fast Systems, LLC                                    Fax: +1 
Supercomputer performance to get the job done.
                                          Commodity pricing to make it 

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