Missouri student suspended for Web site comments settles with school district

The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri has wrapped up its case against Rolla Public Schools, agreeing to a settlement last fall with the school district it accused of violating the First Amendment rights of one of its students.

The ACLU, which represented a former Rolla High School student suspended for a Web site comment, agreed to a confidential settlement with the Rolla Public Schools in September.

Bryan D. Scheiderer, an ACLU cooperating attorney who represented Dustin Mitchell, said he could not comment on the settlement because it was confidential. He added, however, that he was satisfied with the agreement.

“It was a compromise decision, but it got the case resolved for us,” Schiederer said.

Originally, Scheiderer had asked for the suspension to be removed from Mitchell’s record, in addition to monetary damages.

In 1999, Mitchell, then a junior, was suspended for answering yes to a question posted on an Internet discussion board that asked if incidents like the one at Columbine High School, in which two boys killed 12 students, a teacher and themselves, could occur at his school. School officials said they suspended Mitchell for that comment and his use of another student’s name as an alias while online.

Mitchell’s original punishment included 10 days of suspension and 42 hours of community service. His suspension was later dropped to four days.