NEW YORK — A Buffalo high school student suspended for five daysin March is claiming that administrators violated his First Amendment rightsby punishing him for an independent newspaper he distributed at school.
But Clarence Central School District superintendent Thomas Coseo saidSteven Harnisch was punished for his defiant attitude toward school rulesand personnel, not his paper.
“He was suspended for disorderly conduct,” Coseo said. “He refused tocomply with a directive from a teacher.”
Harnisch, who has distributed his independent publication, Harn!, atschool for four years, said administrators never liked his newspaper andoften confiscated copies from students after he distributed it. He saidschool officials are accusing him of being insubordinate as an excuse topunish him for his paper.
“They don’t like my paper,” said Harnisch, a senior at Clarence HighSchool. “It’s been going on for four years now, and they had to find areason to get me out of there.”
Harnisch said he was using computers in the school’s learning assistancecenter before school started when the center’s monitor asked him to leave.Harnisch said he suspected he was being asked to leave because of an articlepublished in the March issue of Harn! about two unnamed students whohad sex in the center. He told the monitor that if he was being asked toleave because of the article, then he was not leaving.
Coseo said he did not know why Harnisch was asked to leave the center.
The assistant principal escorted Harnisch to the principal’s office.According to Harnisch, administrators told him they were suspending himfor insubordination, promoting senior pranks in his newsletter and beingdisrespectful.
At a disciplinary hearing in April, Harnisch said administrators recommendedthat he be home-schooled for the remainder of the school year. The schooldistrict did not adopt that recommendation, however, and Harnisch has returnedto school.