Schools pays suspended student $16,500 in out-of-court settlement


Administrators' reaction to horoscope costs district





\nOHIO -- A high school student who was suspended for 10\ndays during the hysteria over school violence that followed the\nColumbine shooting settled his lawsuit against the school in October.

The Nordonia Hills School District agreed to pay Mark Guidetti\n$16,500 and expunge the suspension from his disciplinary record.\n

Guidetti, a senior at Nordonia Hills High School, was suspended\nin April for writing a horoscope column in which he advised Scorpios\nto "practice what your reaction is to all those college applications\nthat you sent out. We suggest starting by blowing up your house,\nand then moving on to bigger stress-relieving activities, such\nas assassinating the president or wearing hats to school."\n

The column was published in the school newspaper just days\nafter the shooting at Columbine High School, but Guidetti had\nwritten it six weeks before the shooting, and it had been approved\nby his adviser.

Guidetti said he intended the column as a satirical response\nto a teacher who confronted him about wearing a hat at school.\nHe said he wanted to show that teachers were taking the school's\nrule against wearing hats as seriously as offenses such as murder\nor arson.

But some people misunderstood Guidetti's intentions. Nordonia\nHills principal Charles Vrabel suspended him for 10 days and recommended\nexpulsion. Police officers filed charges of delinquency against\nhim for menacing. And Secret Service agents investigated the assassination\nreference.

"Not once did it even cross my mind as being controversial,"\nGuidetti said.

School officials dropped the suspension after Guidetti had\nserved three days, and they canceled the expulsion hearing. But\nGuidetti filed a lawsuit to force the school to erase the punishment\nfrom his record.

"I definitely thought I shouldn't be [suspended],"\nGuidetti said. "Especially since [school officials] approved\nwhat I wrote before Littleton. After Littleton, the paper came\nout, and they decided to punish me for something they had approved,\nwhich was horrendous. It just didn't make any sense."

Guidetti also sued the police department to ensure that no\nrecords would be kept of any charges filed against him. In the\nsettlement, the department agreed to turn over all of Guidetti's\nrecords to a judge.

Kenneth D. Myers, Guidetti's attorney, said he was pleased\nwith the settlement.

"I think the outcome was positive, and it was an important\nlesson for Mark," Myers said. "He had to learn that\nsometimes your First Amendment rights aren't just given to you,\nbut you have to assert them. He stood up for them and so did his\nparents, and they prevailed."\n


reports, Winter 1999-2000