Supreme Court denies hearing to student suspended for horror story

NEW YORK — An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied yesterday in the case of Dylan Finkle, a student who was suspended because of a horror story he wrote that included names of fellow students and violent, sexually explicit material.

Finkle was a sixth-grader at Thompson Middle School when he first wrote his fictional horror story titled “Costume Party” as a creative writing assignment modeled after the popular Halloween movies. A teacher made Principal James Kassebaum aware of the stories, and he required Finkle to serve a five-day suspension and undergo psychological testing in October 2003. Following a hearing with the Syosset School District superintendent, Finkle was suspended for another 30 days.

The case was appealed to the school board and state commissioner of education, who both denied the appeal. After the denials, Finkle’s parents filed a lawsuit against the district. A federal district court in New York ruled in favor of the school district, stating that Finkle’s story was not constitutionally protected.

The case was appealed to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May 2006 where the court affirmed the district court’s decision, saying the lower court’s judgment was appropriate.

Finkle’s attorney, E. Christopher Murray, said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was filed in hopes of overturning that decision. Murray called the decision “unfortunate” and said that all avenues have been “exhausted.”

By Erica Hudock, SPLC staff writer

  • Case: D. F. v. Board of Educ. of Syosset Cent. School Dist., 386 F.Supp.2d 119 (E.D.N.Y. 2005), aff’d, 213 Ed. Law Rep. 154 (2nd Cir. 2006),cert. denied, 2007 WL 135711 (U.S. Jan. 22, 2007) (No. 06-542).
  • Student suspended for horror story appeals ruling News Flash, 6/19/2006
  • Suspension for violent, sexually explicit story did not violate student’s rights, court rules News Flash, 9/29/2005
  • Student suspended for creative writing assignment sues N.Y. school district News Flash, 10/15/2004