Student Teaches School About Constitution
A New Jersey school tried to teach Ryan Dwyer the wrong lesson: if you criticize your principal or teachers, even in your own home, writing on your own website, you will be punished. A federal judge taught the school the correct lesson: kids, like adults, are protected by the First Amendment.
On his Web site in the spring of 2003, Ryan noted that the Maple Place School didn't live up to its vaunted reputation and that he really hated it. He also discussed the disciplinary methods of the principal. He took note of some teachers he didn't like. And, it must be noted, he lauded some teachers he looked up to.
Offended by Dwyer's ideas and language, school district administrators ordered Dwyer to shut down his website. Then it suspended him, kicked him off the baseball team, and refused to let him take a class trip. Dwyer responded appropriately: he sued the school for violating his right to freedom of expression. Judge Stanley Chesler ruled in Dwyer's favor, vindicating Dwyer's right to be free from governmental retaliation for engaging in private speech, even if it offends school administrators. That's a lesson the school needed to learn.
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