School district pays $20,000 to students suspended for yearbook request

CONNECTICUT — A school district agreed in March topay two students who were suspended for asking to include thename of a rap album in their yearbook $10,000 each in an out-of-courtsettlement.

The two students, Daniel Reilly and Robert Scanlon, were suspendedin January 1996 from Thomaston High School after they submitteda request to have the album "EFIL4ZAGGIN"-which spells"Niggaz4Life" in reverse-by the group N.W.A., appearin their memory section of the yearbook. The yearbook’s facultyadviser brought the request to the principal, who met with thestudents.

The principal told the students that some people might findthe album name offensive if it was included in the yearbook. Althoughthe students did not object to omitting it, the principal suspendedboth of them for several days on the grounds that they submittedan "inappropriate request," according to George Mendillo,Reilly’s attorney.

The students sued the school principal, board of educationand the superintendent, among others, to contest the punishment.

As part of the settlement, the suspensions were erased fromthe students’ records.

Mendillo said the principal had an "exaggerated notion"of his own authority, and that the settlement was an acknowledgementthat the suspensions were wrong.

"We feel that the damages that they paid represent anacknowledgment that [school officials] were wrong in doing whatthey did," Mendillo said.