Mich. student challenges verbal assault rule in suit

MICHIGAN ‘ A student who was suspended from Mount Pleasant High School after reading a parody he wrote about the school’s tardiness policy filed a lawsuit against the school on Sept. 5.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed the suit against Mount Pleasant School District following the October 2000 suspension of Alex Smith, 17, for what was termed by the school as ‘verbal assault.’

Smith’s three-page written commentary on the tardiness policy was not intended to be heard by school officials, but was brought to the attention of the administration after a teacher overheard him reading it to a group of peers in the cafeteria.

Smith stated in his commentary that the principal’s name was associated in his mind with the words ‘skank’ and ‘tramp.’ He also said the principal had divorced her husband after having an affair with another principal, according to Smith’s complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

The ‘Verbal Assault Policy’ outlined in the Mount Pleasant Student Code of Conduct defines assault as the act of ‘threatening the well-being, health, safety, or dignity of persons on school property,’ according to the complaint.

ACLU cooperating attorney Richard Landau said he is requesting a court order to clear Smith’s record along with a declaration that the policy violates free speech.

Full text of the complaint is available on the ACLU of Michigan Web site at http://www.aclumich.org/briefs/Brief66569v4.htm.