Arkansas school district settles case with student owner of private Web site

Valley View School District officials settled a federal lawsuit in August with a student suspended for the content his personal Web site, but all parties involved have refused to release the details of the agreement.

Justin Redman, a ninth-grader when he posted the site from his home computer May 7, was suspended for the last 10 days of the school year after school officials discovered the site, which contained sexually explicit pictures and remarks critical of the school’s administrators, staff and four other students. The suspension caused Redman to miss all his final exams, leading him to fail the ninth grade.

The announcement of the settlement followed the second day of testimony in U.S. District Judge George Howard’s courtroom. Howard had already issued a temporary restraining order against the school district, forcing them to allow the Jonesboro teen-ager to make up all his missed classwork and exams.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, which filed the suit on Redman’s behalf, released a statement after the settlement saying now “the educational process can continue.”

Redman returned to school Aug. 21 as a 10th grader.

This is yet another situation where school officials have acted without regard to the constitutional limitations placed upon them. Only in the most extraordinary circumstances have courts upheld acts by public school officials to punish students for private speech that takes place entirely outside of school and on the students