Fla. school recalls ‘memory book,’ punishes student for anti-Semitic comment

FLORIDA — Administrators have recalled and reissued apage from a Key Biscayne school’s “memory book” after a parentnotified school officials that the book contained an anti-Semitic remark writtenin German. The phrase translating into “Death to the Jews”appeared in the student comment section of the book, which was written byeighth-graders and edited by staff members at the kindergarten througheighth-grade Key Biscayne Community School. The unidentified student to whom theremark was attributed was suspended for the four remaining days of the schoolyear, said John Schuster, spokesman for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.The book was distributed to about 450 students June 3. The next morningadministrators asked students to return their books so teachers could remove thepage and substitute it for a version without the remark. Principal AnaM. Rasco wrote a letter to students’ parents asking for their cooperation.“In spite of careful editing to ensure that everything printed inthe memory [book] is proper and in good taste, some inappropriate materialslipped by us,” the letter stated, according to a news report by WPLB TVin Miami.Though the Miami-Dade school district policy says that studentsshould control the content of student publications, it is unclear whether thebook was produced by students or administrators. The policy, which isbroader than federal courts require, states “it is essential that schoolsprovide students effective avenues not only to participate in discussions inwhich points of views are explored but also to question, to inquire and tofreely express ideas including those that are controversial.”Courts have ruled that schools with student free-press policies thatprovide protections greater than those in the First Amendment, such as KeyBiscayne Community School, will be bound by their own policies. In thosesituations, school officials are only allowed to censor if the expressionmaterially and substantially disrupts normal school activities or invades therights of others.Another area of student conduct code allows thatstudents are to “be free from anyone telling you what you can and cannotwrite or read.”Brenda Feldman, a newspaper adviser at Coral GablesHigh School in the same school district, said students should be responsible forall content of student publications, but she would strongly caution studentsfrom publishing material that might be offensive to someone’s race orreligion.Schuster did not comment on the reason the student wassuspended, and Rasco did not respond to requests for comment.