Ohio school district settles with student over Web page that criticized a teacher





OHIO — An Ohio suburban school district agreed in April to pay $30,000 to a student who was suspended for creating a Web site from his home on which he criticized his band teacher.

In exchange for the settlement, Sean O’Brien has agreed to drop a federal lawsuit claiming that the Westlake School Board and five district officials violated his First Amendment right to free speech.

The lawsuit had asked for $550,000 in damages.

O1Brien had describing on his Web site his band teacher, Raymond Walczuk, as “an overweight middle-aged man who doesn’t like to get haircuts” and favors some students over others.

School officials at Westlake High School in suburban Cleveland suspended O’Brien for 10 days. They claimed that the site violated a policy that forbids students from showing disrespect to employees.

“We felt there was harm done here,” Superintendent Beverly Reep said.

A federal judge ruled in March that the school must temporarily reinstate O’Brien after he had served eight days of the suspension.

Judge John Manos ordered the school district not to restrict what the student put on the Web site set up through his own computer at home.

“It is so ridiculous to begin with,” said Ohio ACLU spokesman Gary Daniels.


reports, Spring 1998