OHIO — A 14-year-old middle school student filed suitagainst the North Canton City School District last month afterschool officials suspended him for creating a personal Web pageabout skateboarding.Eighth-grader Johnathan Coy was suspended from North Canton MiddleSchool for two weeks in April after a teacher discovered Coy’ssite, which was created at home and hosted on an off-campus serviceprovider, according to the complaint. The school initially threatenedto expel him for 80 days, but later decided to let him attendclass on the condition that he not get into any more trouble.Coy and his parents, with the help of the Ohio chapter of theAmerican Civil Liberties Union, are seeking an injunction to endthe suspension and clear Coy’s disciplinary record. ACLU attorneyJillian Davis said the school’s action is clearly unconstitutionalbecause it punished Coy for constitutionally protected speechthat had no connection to the school."If you’ve got a Web site and it’s totally off campusthenthat is private speech by the student," Davis said. "Theschool doesn’t have any business coming in and censoring that."According to the complaint filed July 26, Coy was suspended for"obscenity," "disobedience" and "inappropriateaction or behavior," defined as "any action or behaviorjudged by school officials to be inappropriate." Davis admittedthat the site did have a few four-letter words, but was "basicallyjust eighth-grade stuff.""There’s absolutely no connection to the school," Davissaid. "No teachers are mentioned, no administrators are mentionedand the school isn’t specifically mentioned."Davis said administrators took offense to one picture on the siteof a student showing his middle finger to the camera. She saidadministrators assumed the picture was taken on campus becausethere are lockers visible in the background. North Canton Superintendent Thomas Shoup said he could not commenton disciplinary actions taken against Coy, but said he is confidentthat the school system was right to take the steps it did."We think the action taken by the school and the board ofeducation was appropriate," Shoup said.The school system will likely respond to the suit within the nextmonth, Shoup said.
A copy of Coy’s complaint is available on the ACLU’s Web siteat: http://www.aclu.org/news/2001/n072601f.html