Today, the ACLU of Ohio Foundation sent a letter to Lancaster City Schools Interim Superintendent Dora Jean Bumgarner on behalf of the family of Lancaster High School student Thomas Seifert.
Seifert has been suspended and is currently in the midst of being expelled by the school system for a website that he created that skewers various administrators and high school staff. The website in question was created and maintained off of school grounds and using no school resources.
In its letter, the ACLU of Ohio states its belief that the Lancaster City Schools has no legal authority to punish Seifert for exercising what amounts to speech protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The ACLU of Ohio also strongly urges the school system to take all necessary and immediate steps to rescind all past and ongoing disciplinary measures taken against Seifert. Lastly, the ACLU asks that Seifert be given a legitimate opportunity to make up course work he has missed as a result of his suspension and expulsion.
“As long as there are schools, there will be students complaining about school staff and administrators. As a reflection of the times, many of these complaints find their way to cyberspace where numerous students across the country have designed websites to air their grievances, justified or not,” according to Gary Daniels, Litigation Coordinator for the ACLU of Ohio Foundation. “When students engage in this type of activity off of school grounds, their thoughts, words and actions are just as constitutionally-protected as they would be if they were talking on a street corner or over the telephone,” added Daniels.