Student sues school after being suspended for comment about Columbine on Internet discussion board

MISSOURI – The American Civil Liberties Union fileda federal lawsuit Thursday on behalf of a high school studentwho was suspended for a comment he made about school violenceon an Internet discussion board.

Dustin Mitchell, a junior at Rolla High School, was suspendedfor 10 days last spring and required to perform 42 hours of communityservice for a comment he made on a teens-only Internet discussionboard five days after the shooting at Columbine High School inLittleton, Colo., in which two students killed 12 classmates,one teacher and themselves. In response to the question, “Doyou think such a tragedy could happen at your school?” Mitchellsaid “Yes!”

Bryan Scheiderer, Mitchell’s attorney, said officials at RollaHigh School told Mitchell he was being suspended because of thecomment he made on the discussion board and because Mitchell usedthe name of another student at the school as an alias when heposted his one-word reply.

The school eventually reduced Mitchell’s suspension to fourdays. Mitchell said he only completed about 12 hours of the communityservice requirement.

“I started [doing the community service], but the moreI thought about it, it wasn’t right,” he said. “I wasjust speaking my mind.”

Mitchell, who is now living in Washington state with friends,is suing the Rolla school district to have the suspension erasedfrom his disciplinary record.

“The school overstepped their bounds,” Mitchell said.”It’s a matter of how much authority does the school haveto punish its students when they’re not on school time or underneaththe school’s jurisdiction. It wasn’t a felony. It wasn’t a misdemeanor.All I did was say ‘yes.'”