May 22, 2007

Gregory Requa: free speech hero?

The video took a teacher's hygiene to task. On YouTube. As a result, Gregory Requa, a student accused of producing it, was given a Noahic sentence: suspended for 40 days. Now, he's suing for his speech rights.
Requa's lawyer, Jeannette Cohen, said the teen didn't produce the video -- taken in an English classroom at Kentridge. But even if he did, his suspension is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, she argued in court.

"What is at stake here is the school district message that if you post things we don't like," you will be punished, Cohen said.

Kent School District lawyer Charles Lind says the suspension had nothing to do with online criticism of the teacher. Rather, it was punishment for the disruption created by the students secreting a video camera into Joyce Mong's class and dancing in a mocking, disrespectful manner while her back was turned.

"It's quite clear that the district is talking about conduct in the classroom and not the videotape," Lind said.
Lind is on shaky ground. If the only crime of Gregory Requa--3rd place, Travel and Tourism, DECA!--was the on-camera dance and mockathon, it would hardly merit a 40-day suspension, unless this is the culmination of a parade of incidents.

Absent the video and the discipline record, this blogger will withhold final judgment. One question, though: how thick is your skin, O teacher? Better be thick enough for YouTube.

Update: The judge agreed with the school, and Requa's suspension stands. A forty day vacation: that'll teach 'im.

1 comment:

Nuss said...

That's why so many free speech advocates are watching the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case so closely -- it's going to go a long way towards deciding how far administrators can go off campus to restrict speech.

I wonder if he'd gotten 40 days if he'd snuck a journal into class, done the same disruptive "dance", composed a piece in class critical of the teacher, took it home and posted it on myspace?

Most school administrators are always going to be (at least) one step behind the electronic media curve, and that's the biggest problem: That's when you get over-reactionary suspensions that don't reflect well on anyone.