Student punished for private Web site

Electronic journalist says school violated free speech

\nMISSOURI - A punishable action of defiance or an expression\nof free speech? The line is hazy for some administrators when\na student uses the Internet to criticize his school.

Few would question the disciplining of a student who calls a teacher\na name to his face. But when high school junior Brad Gore wrote\na critical and satirical article about Mexico High School and\nposted it on the Internet from his home, he did not expect his\nschool would punish him.

Gore first posted his Web site as a sophomore, when he attended\na different school. Using his home computer, his site included\njokes, pictures and links to some other favorite sites. It also\nincluded a page called "The System Sucks."

On this page, Gore says, he wrote sarcastic editorials about issues\nthat were bothering him. When he moved to Mexico High School\nand found policies he did not agree with, his new school became\nthe subject of his editorial commentary.

Students began talking about his Web site, and eventually the\nadministrators found out about it. They asked him to take down\nthe "The System Sucks" page, which Gore did. But Gore\nwas still suspended from school for 10 days, a punishment later\nreduced to five days.

Those five days of missed classes, Gore says, were enough to seriously\nhurt his grades. His school does not allow students who miss\nclasses because of suspension to make up their work.

At first, Gore says, he was willing to accept the school district's\npunishment and forget about the whole situation.

Then he started doing research into students' First Amendment\nrights and began to realize that his free speech protections may\nhave been violated. He decided he was willing to take his fight\nto court.

"I do realize that what I said about the administration could\nbe seen as an attack - but it was an attack on policy," Gore\nsays.

Gore continues to update his site, now including information about\nthe First Amendment and freedom of speech. He is confident that\nhis school is in the wrong.

"If you want to censor kids, then you suffer the consequences,"\nhe says. "After reading all the court cases, [the situation]\njust made me mad."

Gore has returned to school but says he is continuing to battle\nthe administration. He says now each student must sign on with\ntheir name and social security number before using a school computer\n.

After the school wrote letters to the Internet service provider\ncarrying his site to complain, his site was removed. But Gore\nhas now re-posted his site at a new address. He now posts stories\non his site about other students at his school whose rights he\nfeels have been violated.

One story resulted in a teacher resigning, and other stories have\ncaused parents and others in the community to call Gore's father\nto complain, he says.

Gore says he is ready to file a lawsuit against the school district\nand is looking forward to seeing his case win in court. \n

reports, Spring 1999