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Court Won’t Treat Teen’s Bomb Threat Lightly

(CN) - A New York school board did not violate the free-speech rights of a teenager who threatened that he was "going to just blow this place up," an appeals court ruled.

The boy, identified in the opinion as "Student With a Disability R.," was a ninth-grade student at Half Hollow Hills High School East in 2009. In the student center, he told a teacher and some students that he was "just going to blow this place up." He also said, "don't come to school on Friday.

The teacher reported the comment to the assistant principal, who passed the news of the threat on to the principal. After speaking with R., the principal told the assistant principal to call R's parents and the police.

The school board suspended R. for 30 days. After the Commission of Education later denied an appeal, R.'s father took the case to court.

A five-judge panel with the Appellate Division's Albany-based Third Judicial Department refused to overturn and expunge the suspension.

"Under these circumstances, we conclude that school officials could have reasonably concluded that student R.'s statements would substantially disrupt the school environment, and their resulting decision to suspend him was not violative of his constitutional right of free speech," Justice Karen Peters wrote for the court.

"In fact, the high school's code of conduct specifically provides that the 'false reporting of bomb threats' is prohibited and will result in suspension," she added. "Given the uncontested truth that student R. made the threatening statements at issue and the disruption within the school which reasonably resulted from his utterance of those statements, we find no basis to disturb the Commissioner's determination."

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