Ga. school suspends students for off-campus Web site it deems offensive

GEORGIA —-Two eighth-graders were suspended fromTrickum Middle School for allegedly posting racial slurs and threats on theiroff-campus Web site.”[School administrators] felt it wasimperative to send a clear message that this kind of disruptive behavior wouldnot be tolerated,” said Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett CountyPublic Schools, which is near Atlanta.School officials took disciplinaryaction against the eighth-graders on Oct. 3 after investigating complaints fromparents about the racial tone of the Web site, Roach said. Roach saidthe Web site was anti-African American and included racial and ethic slurs aswell as threatening language directed toward African Americans. The site alsonamed students who were going to meet and fight. The students createdand maintained the Web site off-campus, Roach said. After the students learnedthey were in trouble, the site was removed, she said.”[Thedistrict’s] disciplinary handbook clearly states that school rules mayapply when a student’s misconduct in the community disrupts the schoolenvironment,” Roach said.She said she was unaware if any studentshad accessed the site from a school computer. However, she said Trickum studentswere discussing the Web site at school and creating a disruption. Roachsaid she could not identify the students or discuss the extent of thedisciplinary action taken against the eighth grade students because of studentprivacy laws. But, if a student is suspended for more than nine days, adistrict panel reviews the case. Roach said neither student would be appearingbefore a district panel.Court cases involving students who createoff-campus Web sites that are deemed offensive have generally protected studentsfrom punishment.In 2000, a federal court in Seattle ruled that a schoolcould not suspend a student who created mock obituaries on a Web site he builton his home computer. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in 2002that a student could be disciplined for a personal Web site because the studentaccessed the site at school and disrupted the school community.