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ACLU of Oregon Releases Letter In Support Of Students Suspended For Retweeting

OPB | March 14, 2014 1:38 p.m. | Updated: March 31, 2014 7:51 a.m.

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon has sent a letter to the Salem area school that suspended students for passing on a tweet about a teacher.

McKay High School

McKay High School

Stefanie Knowlton / Statesman Journal

In it, the organization says the students were “unlawfully disciplined.”

The ACLU says that McKay High School should “remove all record of the suspensions imposed on students … and respect the free speech right of students in the future.”

Salem-Keizer School District spokesperson Jay Remy says Superintendent Paula Radich received and replied to the ACLU, thanking the organization for the letter and saying the school and the district will take its recommendations into consideration.

Letter

You can read ACLU's full letter here.

View Document...

The ACLU’s statement comes a week after about 20 students were suspended from the school for two days after they had retweeted a claim that a female teacher “flirted” with her students. As OPB reported yesterday, the tweet originated from an anonymous Twitter handle called @SalemConfessions.

McKay High School administration found the tweet to be a form of cyberbullying as defined by the school district’s administration policy.

The school’s principal, Sara LeRoy, said each student’s scenario was examined before determining what the administration found to be an appropriate punishment.

The Salem-Keizer School District has not been involved because a parent hasn’t filed a complaint with the offices directly.

“The issue will be worked out on the school level with help from the district office as needed,” Remy says.

And Remy told OPB Thursday that the incident wasn’t a freedom of speech issue, but an breach of the district’s Students’ Rights and Responsibility handbook.

But the ACLU disagrees:

“In discipling those students because of their off-campus expressive activity, McKay High School officials have infringed on the students’ rights to free speech under both the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, section 8 of the Oregon Constitution … in this case, school officials have sought to regulate student speech occurring far beyond the schoolhouse gate, even when there is no credible threat to student safety arising from that speech.”

LeRoy had planned cyberbullying classes in response to the incident.

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