Teen publishers of offensive pamphlet ordered to attend other school

Thursday, March 5, 1998

Killian High Sc...
Photo by AP
Killian High School Principal Timothy Dawson, who ordered school police to arrest nine students for publishing a racist pamphlet.

MIAMI (AP)—Four of nine students arrested recently for publishing a crude, obscenity-laced pamphlet were told March 4 they would have to finish the year at another high school.

That was the recommendation following separate hearings conducted by Killian High School officials.

A fifth student’s hearing was continued until March 5. Hearings for the remaining four students were also scheduled then.

Lawyers representing the suspended students threatened to sue the district to force it to allow the students to finish the year at Killian.

“What these kids did was write a pamphlet using language that highly offended the principal. That is neither a crime nor a violation of school conduct,” said Howard Simon, Florida director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “That they are not back at Killian is not satisfactory.”

The Feb. 23 arrests rekindled the debate of free speech in public schools. The students spent the night in jail and faced hate crime charges until the State Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute on Friday.

District officials were criticized for overreacting to a 20-page booklet entitled “First Amendment” that included racist drawings and a musing about killing the principal. The students, ages 16 to 18, were put on a 10-day suspension.

Miami-Dade County Public School officials said they would meet with parents for a final decision.

Deputy Superintendent Henry Fraind, a spokesman for the school district, said reinstating the students to Killian may not be an option. They could be sent to another nearby school with a similar program, he said.

“There are rules and regulations, restrictions by the U.S. government,” Fraind said. “Freedom of speech has its limits. Those nine relatively intelligent young people reduced their writings to convey a message that won’t be tolerated.”

The ACLU sent a letter to the district’s attorneys, claiming the March 4 meetings lacked “even the most minimal elements of due process.”

The civil rights group demanded immediate documentation on the exact rule the students have broken.

“They still have not fully been informed what school offense they are alleged to have committed,” Simon said. “Whatever offense they may have committed, they have already been punished beyond what is reasonable.”

The students were ordered arrested by Killian principal Timothy Dawson after he learned of the publication. Dawson, who attended the hearings, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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