A Providence, RI sophomore who photographed his principal smoking outside a school door, in violation of state law, was suspended for posting the photos on his web site, which criticizes the Central High administration. Now, thanks to the ACLU, the student is back in school; the suspension is erased from his record. Principal Elaine Almagno was reprimanded by the superintendent for smoking on school grounds.
The Providence Journal story, which requires registration, says Eliazar Velasquez handed out fliers at school with a link to his site:
“This is a principal we’re talking about. She is a leader. And here we caught her smoking on school grounds; breaking the law. . . . We feel that Ms. Almagno is not suited to be principal of Central High School. Don’t take my word for it. I have pictures!”
The student was called to the principal’s office and asked who helped design the web site. The school police officer searched his book bag.
There, she found the fliers, which said, “Wanna see Mrs. Almagno take part in some illegal activities? Wanna see her breaking the law on school property? Go to centralscoop.tripod.com.”
Threatened with slander charges, the student deleted the photos but didn’t know how to take down the whole site, which the principal had demanded.
That same day, Harold Metts, the assistant principal and also a Democratic state representative, told Velasquez he was suspended. A disciplinary hearing was set for tomorrow at 1 p.m.
In a letter to Velasquez’s parents, Metts wrote that the teenager was being punished for harassing and slandering the principal and the dean of students, John Hunt. Velasquez had taken a memo written by Hunt, circled a couple of grammatical errors, then posted copies of the memo around the school.
“Ha! Ha! Ha!” Velasquez wrote. “He doesn’t know the difference between there, their and they’re.”
The principal told the Journal Velasquez was suspended for “an extreme disruption of teaching and learning.” He seems to have understood the lesson on First Amendment rights.
Thanks to Michael McKeown for the tip.
From the Journal’s update story:
(Superintendent Melody) Johnson said while students have a right to voice their concerns, the schools have a role in educating them “about respectful, constructive ways to do so.”
She said the student is being counseled in “appropriate ways to express disagreement, deal with conflict and reach resolutions.”
First lesson: Don’t emulate your principal.