GEORGIA– A federal judge in Atlanta dismissed last week thelawsuit of a student suspended for writing a violent journal entry, saying thewriting was ”sufficiently disturbing” to justify the school’sdisciplinary actions.
Rachel Boim had filed the lawsuit to clear herdisciplinary record after she was expelled in October 2003 for writing a storydescribing a dream sequence in which a girl falls asleep in class and dreams ofshooting her math teacher. The school district later reduced her punishment to a10-day suspension that remains on her record.
A teacher discoveredthe story when Boim attempted to pass the notebook containing it to anotherstudent in class.
In Boim’s story, the student arrives atschool with a gun. It chronicles the student’s anxiety as sixth period,the class of the condemned teacher, approaches — as in the story,Boim’s sixth period class was math.
The story climaxes when,after gunning down the teacher, the student is in turn shot at by a schoolsecurity guard, before waking up from the dream.
”BANG thistime a shot was fired at me. I turn just in time to see the bullet rushing atme, almost like its [sic] in slow motion,” the story reads. ”Then,the bell rings. I pick my head off my desk, shake my head and gather up my booksoff to my next class.”
In the Aug. 1 ruling, district courtjudge Marvin H. Shoob said that it was reasonable for school officials to fearthat the story might create a ”substantial disruption of schoolactivities.” He cited the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent CommunitySchool District, which found that administrators may not censor studentexpression unless it would cause a substantial disruption of school activitiesor violate the rights of others.
Shoob saidTinker does not require certainty thatdisruption will occur, and he said Boim’s story was”disturbing” enough to justify punishingher.
”First, they could have feared that Rachel might actuallyattempt to carry out the actions described in her story…” Shoob wrote.”Second, school officials could have reasonably feared disruption ofschool activities if Rachel’s story was read by other members of theschool community.”
Don Keenan, Boim’s lawyer, could notbe reached for comment.