Volleyball player continues court fight over Internet ‘trash talk’

PENNSYLVANIA — A former Pittsburgh area high schoolstudent is continuing his fight against administrators who kickedhim off the volleyball team for making negative comments on anInternet chat room.

Attorneys for Jack Flaherty are seeking a permanent injunctionin federal court to bar the Keystone Oaks School District frompunishing students for off-campus speech, something they say theschool district is fiercely resisting. The ruling could affecthow other schools can discipline students for off-campus speech.

School officials cut Flaherty from the team after he made thecomments on a forum for western Pennsylvania volleyball players.Flaherty has since graduated. According to his attorney, Vic Walczak,the messages were nothing but "trash talk" about playerson opposing teams.

A Federal court ordered the school district to reinstate Flaherty,but the coach resigned and the school refused to hire a replacement.The team forfeited the final nine games of the season.

Walczak petitioned for a contempt charge against the schoolfor evading the court order by ending the team’s season, but itwas denied in June. Walczak said the school needs to be taughta lesson about following the Constitution.

"We think the defendants violated at least the spiritif not the letter of a federal court order in a constitutionallaw case," he said. "Frankly, there have to be repercussionsfor that."

Superintendent Carl DeJulio declined to comment about the litigationand school attorneys did not return several phone calls made totheir offices.

Walczak said the case has been a tough battle and may dragon for months until a judge decides whether to permanently barthe district from punishing students for off-campus speech.

"They’re fighting us tooth and nail," he said. "It’sbeen nasty litigation."