End of the Road for Teen Who Wrote About D-Bags | Courthouse News Service
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End of the Road for Teen Who Wrote About D-Bags

(CN) - A Connecticut teen punished for writing a blog post that called school administrators douche bags cannot take her free-speech fight to Washington, with the Supreme Court declining to take up the case Monday.

At 2007 meeting, Lewis S. Mills High School administrators told Junior Class Secretary Avery Doninger that students would have to relocate or reschedule the school's annual battle-of-the-bands concert, Jam Fest.

Immediately after the meeting, Doninger and three other students sent a mass email from the computer lab - using a parent's email account - asking students to call the central office to complain. They later sent another message with the superintendent's email address and phone number.

Principal Karissa Niehoff confronted Doninger about the emails in her office later that day. While Doninger claims Niehoff canceled Jam Fest in that meeting as punishment, Niehoff says she merely scolded Doninger for breaking a school policy that forbids students from using personal email accounts in the computer lab.

That night, Doninger wrote in her blog, "jamfest is cancelled due to douchebags in central office."

A classmate called Superintendent Paula Schwartz a "dirty whore" in the comments section of the post, which was hosted by Livejournal.com, a popular social-networking site.

As phone calls and emails flooded school officials' offices the next morning, a group of rowdy students gathered outside the administration's office to protest.

Niehoff and Schwartz later testified that the mini-uprising made them miss meetings. Jamf Fest was rescheduled, and Doninger sent students another email stating that the problem had been resolved.

All was well until administrators discovered the angry Livejournal post two weeks later, at which point Niehoff barred Doninger from running for senior class secretary.

The day before the student election, Doninger and her mother spoke to a local reporter at a TV news station about the incident. Later that day, during a civics class, one of Doninger's supporters was sent to the principal's office for shouting, "Everybody watch the news at 6."

On election day, Niehoff forbade students from wearing "Vote for Avery" T-shirts to a school assembly.

Though Doninger won the election as a write-in candidate, administrators refused to recognize the results. The teenager sued the school through her mother in Connecticut Superior Court, demanding an injunction. The action later moved to District Court, and hit the 2nd Circuit back in 2008.

When Doninger graduated, the injunction request became moot, but she continued to pursue money damages for alleged constitutional violations.

A federal judge found that the school was within its rights to discipline Doninger for the blog post, but ruled that the T-shirts may have been protectable speech.

Doninger appealed the dismissal to the 2nd Circuit, which upheld the dismissal involving the blog posts and also tossed the claim involving the T-shirts.

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