School agrees to erase punishment of student suspended for Web site 'Graffiti Wall'

But administrators will not apologize for disciplining eighth grader for out-of-class speech

NEW MEXICO -- After months of discussion, school administrators and the parents of an eighth grader suspended from school for a Web site he created reached a "satisfactory resolution."

Edgewood Middle School administrators agreed in January to remove the punishment from Mike Hansen's school records at the end of the year as long as he does not get into further trouble, according to Mike's mother, Pam Hansen. School officials refused to apologize, however, for suspending Hansen.

Hansen was suspended for one day in September after he created a Web site that included a "Graffiti Wall" message board where students could post the names of other students they hated. Administrators found a printout of the page at school.

Hansen's original suspension, which was for distributing a "hateful" Web page, was later changed to creating a "hostile and threatening environment," after school officials discovered that another student had distributed the printout.

After the incident, Greg Hansen, Mike's father, filed a formal complaint against school officials asking them to remove the suspension from his son's records and issue a formal apology. When administrators refused, he contacted the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.

According to Pam Hansen, the family decided not to pursue a lawsuit because of fears that it could negatively affect school officials' attitudes toward their other two children.

Although she is happy Mike's punishment will be erased from his record, Hansen said she believes school officials should have acknowledged that they were wrong to suspend her son for an out-of-school Web site.

Removing the suspension from Mike's record "is all they are able and willing to do," Pam Hansen said. "They certainly are not going to offer a public apology nor are they going to re-examine their handling of the situation."

School officials "truly feel that they acted in the best interest of all parties, and that given a similar situation, they would do the exact same thing again," she said. "I think the entire issue revolves more around the petty politics of a self-run school district and less about the issue of education and freedom."

Previous Stories:

Off-campus Web site nets eighth grader a suspension, Winter 2000-01 Report