Ohio students who posted messages on Gothic Web site return to school

Monday, May 10, 1999

Eleven students removed from two Brimfield, Ohio, schools last month after they posted material on a Gothic Web site returned to school last week.

School officials said the students — eight students from Field High School and three from Field Middle School — were removed from school after a teacher found their Web site, “The Field Dominion of Freaks.” The site apparently discussed the group's hatred of some students and teachers at their schools.

All of the students were allowed to return to school the day after a May 3 expulsion hearing for two of them.

“Students have a right to free expression,” said Raymond Vasvari, legal director for the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, which represented six students who sought help in blocking school efforts to punish them. “In cases such as this — where the material in question was prepared and distributed off campus and is neither obscene nor directly threatening — school officials cannot punish students for being involved with a Web site the officials dislike.”

Administrators at Field High School said that the students weren't suspended but were placed on an “emergency removal list” for seven days during which they were not allowed in school. Officials said the absences would be considered excused.

School officials declined further comment.

“They were just removed from school until the investigation was complete,”

Principal Eugene Lolli told the Record-Courier in Kent-Ravenna, Ohio. “The students had not been suspended. There is no record of a suspension on any of their records. And they will be allowed to make up missed work.”

Vasvari said the ACLU of Ohio has received more than a dozen complaints about school officials restricting student expression since the shooting incident in Littleton, Colo.

“What happened in Colorado was tragic, but it would be doubly tragic if those who took so many lives in Littleton were allowed to rob children across America of their right to free expression as well,” Vasvari said in a statement sent to the First Amendment Center.