WASHINGTON — A federal district court has denied a high school student’s request to end a 40-day suspension for his alleged involvement in a secretly taped video posted on YouTube.com mocking a teacher’s sexuality and hygiene.
District Court Judge Marsha Pechman denied a temporary restraining order last Tuesday that would allow Gregory Requa, 18, to return to Kentridge High School. Requa is currently serving his suspension and filed the request on May 21.
The four-minute video, which was secretly filmed in class and posted on YouTube in June 2006, shows a student making sexually suggestive pelvic thrusts behind the teacher, Joyce Mong, and includes a shot of the teacher’s buttocks when she bends over. Graphics spliced between video question the teacher’s personal hygiene and poke fun at the disorderliness of the classroom. The video, titled “Mongzilla,” has not been removed from YouTube and has been circulated widely on the Internet.
Requa does not appear in the video.
Requa’s lawyer, Jeannette Cohen, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer her client was not involved in the production of the video mocking the teacher and even if he were, the school district’s punishment violates his First Amendment right of free speech.
But the court’s decision states the footage is not protected expression and “cannot be denominated as anything other than lewd and offensive and devoid of political or critical content” and “constitutes a material and substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the school.”
Becky Hanks, the Kent School District’s executive director for community connections, said she does not think the suspension violates the First Amendment because Requa was not disciplined for circulating the video, but for his association with the “lewd gestures” documented by the video.
“There is no tolerance here for sexually harassing behaviors,” she said.
Hanks said Requa, who is a senior, can still graduate from Kentridge High School with the rest of his class on June 16 if he chooses to complete the schoolwork that has been assigned to him during his suspension.
The Requa family declined to comment.
By Judy Wang, SPLC staff writer