Judge prevents school from suspending student for Web site

WASHINGTON — A high school student suspended Feb. 17for a personal Web site that featured humorous "mock obituaries"of his friends will be allowed to return to school after a federaljudge prevented the school from continuing its punishment.

The judge Feb. 23 ruled that there was no evidence supportingthe charge that the mock obituaries were threatening or intendedas threats. He also said the school did not have authority overthe site because it was not created on school property.

Nick Emmett, a senior at Kentlake High School in Kent, wassuspended for five days for the site, which he created at hishome with the help of his father and a friend from school.

The site, called the "Unofficial Kentlake High Home Page,"included photos of Emmett and his friends and a message board,in addition to the obituaries.

The obituaries section featured fictional accounts of the pretenddeaths of Emmett’s friends, along with their pictures.The obituarieswere published on the site with the permission of the friendsand became so popular Emmett created a place to vote for who shouldbe the subject of the next "obituary," according toEmmett’s court statement.

But after a local television news station ran a story describingthe obituary section as a "hit list," Emmett took thesite down, according to a press release from the ACLU of Washington.

The next day, Kentlake principal Dick Campbell suspended Emmettfor five days while school officials investigated the site. Emmettand his parents contested the suspension with the help of theACLU of Washington, and the judge ordered a temporary restrainingorder to stop the suspension. A hearing has been scheduled forMarch 2, at which time the judge will decide whether to issuea preliminary injunction until the case goes to trial.

The pleading filed in the case, as well as the judge’s temporaryrestraining order are available online from the ACLU of Washingtonat: http://www.aclu-wa.org/ISSUES/students/Kentlake%20TRO/Kentlake%20High%20School%20Index.htm.