Federal judge dismisses lawsuit filed by student who wrote violent story
GEORGIA -- A federal judge in Atlanta dismissed last week the lawsuit of a student suspended for writing a violent journal entry, saying the writing was ''sufficiently disturbing'' to justify the school's disciplinary actions.
Rachel Boim had filed the lawsuit to clear her disciplinary record after she was expelled in October 2003 for writing a story describing a dream sequence in which a girl falls asleep in class and dreams of shooting her math teacher. The school district later reduced her punishment to a 10-day suspension that remains on her record.
A teacher discovered the story when Boim attempted to pass the notebook containing it to another student in class.
In Boim's story, the student arrives at school with a gun. It chronicles the student's anxiety as sixth period, the class of the condemned teacher, approaches -- as in the story, Boim's sixth period class was math.
The story climaxes when, after gunning down the teacher, the student is in turn shot at by a school security guard, before waking up from the dream.
''BANG this time a shot was fired at me. I turn just in time to see the bullet rushing at me, almost like its [sic] in slow motion,'' the story reads. ''Then, the bell rings. I pick my head off my desk, shake my head and gather up my books off to my next class.''
In the Aug. 1 ruling, district court judge Marvin H. Shoob said that it was reasonable for school officials to fear that the story might create a ''substantial disruption of school activities.'' He cited the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which found that administrators may not censor student expression unless it would cause a substantial disruption of school activities or violate the rights of others.
Shoob said Tinker does not require certainty that disruption will occur, and he said Boim's story was ''disturbing'' enough to justify punishing her.
''First, they could have feared that Rachel might actually attempt to carry out the actions described in her story...'' Shoob wrote. ''Second, school officials could have reasonably feared disruption of school activities if Rachel's story was read by other members of the school community.''
Don Keenan, Boim's lawyer, could not be reached for comment.
- Case: Rachael Boim v. Fulton Co. Sch. Dist., No. Civ.A.1:05CV2836MHS, 2006 WL 2189733 (N.D. Ga. Aug. 1, 2006).
- Student files lawsuit to clear disciplinary record News Flash, 10/12/2005
- Student expelled by Ga. School for writing story deemed threatening News Flash, 10/29/2003