Student suspended for Web site comment settles with school district

MISSOURI –The American Civil Liberties Union of EasternMissouri has wrapped up its case against Rolla Public Schools,agreeing to a settlement with the school district it accused ofviolating the First Amendment rights of one of its students.

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

Bryan D. Scheiderer, an ACLU cooperating attorney who representedDustin Mitchell said, he could not comment on the settlement becauseit was confidential. He added, however, that he was satisfiedwith the agreement.

"It was a compromise decision, but it got the case resolvedfor us," Schiederer said.

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

In 1999, Mitchell, then a junior, was suspended for answeringyes to a question posted on an Internet discussion board thatasked if incidents like the one at Columbine High School, in whichtwo boys killed 12 students, a teacher and themselves, could occurat his school. School officials said they suspended Mitchell forthat comment and his use of another student’s name as an aliaswhile online.

Mitchell’s original punishment included 10 days of suspensionand 42 hours of community service. His suspension was later droppedto four days.

After the incident, Mitchell moved to Washington state. Hedid not complete the community service portion of his punishment.

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