Louisiana High School Family Sues Principal, Officials

October 25, 2011

No matter what the language, school officials cannot punish students for what they say about teachers from home on Facebook, the American Civil Liberties Union says in a lawsuit filed for a Brusly High School student and his family.

The posting violated the West Baton Rouge Parish school system’s Internet policy against personal attacks and using offensive language against others, Superintendent David Corona told The Advocate.

The ACLU of Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit Friday for “John Doe” and “Minor Doe,” contending that the school’s principal and system officials violated the student’s right to free speech. The boy was removed from an academic honor society called Beta Club, and a two-day in-school suspension kept him out of reviews for exams on which he did poorly, the suit alleged.

It asks for all record of the suspension to be removed, restoration of membership in Beta Club, a second chance at the exams on which he scored poorly, and unspecified financial compensation.

“This is about a student who was suspended for using extremely offensive language in referencing a teacher on Facebook,” Corona said.

He said the system’s Internet policy forbids students to visit inappropriate websites, bully others, or use offensive language against others.

“Obviously, using offensive language about a teacher is one of the things our policy prohibits,” Corona said.

The lawsuit, assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson, does not say what the student said, but concedes that it was “critical and insulting.” In the lawsuit, the student’s parents say it was meant as a joke and was removed from Facebook after being shown to 10 students.

Another student sent a cellphone photo of the posting and sent it to the teacher, according to the suit.

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