Tuesday, November 16, 2004


A university student evicted from his dormitory and forced to undergo psychological counseling for posting a satirical flier that offended women has been restored after intervention by a national free-speech advocacy group. Apparently seeking a resolution to clogged dorm elevators, University of New Hampshire sophomore Timothy Garneau posted a hastily made flier joking that women could lose the "Freshman 15" by walking up the stairs instead. Basing it on an advertisement posted at the school gym, Garneau wrote: "9 out of 10 freshman girls gain 10 - 15 pounds. But there is something you can do about it. If u live below the 6th floor takes the stairs..Not only will u feel better about yourself but you will also be saving us time and wont [sic] be sore on the eyes."

Turned in by an angry residence hall director, Garneau was charged with offensiveness including "acts of dishonesty," violation of "affirmative action" policies, "harassment" and "conduct which is disorderly, lewd." He was sentenced to expulsion from student housing, given extended disciplinary probation, required to meet with a psychological counselor to discuss his "decisions, actions, and reflections" and made to write a 3000-word reflection paper about the counseling session. The school rejected any appeal by Garneau, who lived out of his car for three weeks, and he contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE.

After a protest from the North Carolina-based group, the university reduced his sentence from eviction to "relocation" to another dormitory, extended disciplinary probation and a single "ethics" meeting with UNH Judicial Officer Jason Whitney.

"We are relieved that UNH has discovered its obligation to the Bill of Rights and that Tim is back indoors," said David French, president of FIRE. "But the university should never have put a student on trial and evicted him merely for posting a flier." In a letter to UNH President Ann Weaver Hart, FIRE contended "forcing a student out of housing for posting a satirical flier is both outrageous and unlawful," pointing out even material far more offensive than Garneau's message is protected by the First Amendment.

FIRE also disputed the "harassment" charges, arguing that hanging a flier was hardly "sufficiently serious -- i.e., severe, persistent, or pervasive -- as to limit or deny a student's ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program," as is required by harassment law. Calling it "harassment"dangerously trivializes real harassment, the group contended.

Garneau acknowledged he initially denied his responsibility for the flier to dorm director Brad Williams but said he confessed a few minutes later. The student explained he was afraid Williams would punish him severely and unlawfully for his expression. "After being kicked out of the dorms for three weeks, it is clear that his fears were completely justified," said Greg Lukianoff, FIRE's director of legal and public advocacy. "Williams had no business 'investigating' constitutionally-protected speech in the first place."



In a case that could pave the way for school vouchers, the California Department of Education is opposing a 14-year-old prodigy's bid to receive government funds so he can continue his schooling at a state university -- the only suitable education, his mother argues. The education department confirms that the lawsuit, brought by the mother of University of California at Los Angeles student Levi Clancy, hinges on the constitutionality of vouchers, making it the first case of its kind in the nation, says Clancy's attorney Richard Ackerman of the Pro-Family Law Center, which filed papers in court yesterday.

As WorldNetDaily reported, Clancy, who was reading high school-level books in two languages at age 5, enrolled at Santa Monica Community College at 7 and, earlier this year, entered UCLA. His mother Leila Levi, a single parent, says she cannot afford the more than $9,000 it costs to attend UCLA each year and filed a lawsuit in February in Sacramento Superior Court. She argues her son is of mandatory attendance age, and the California constitution requires he be provided a free education. Having the state pay for his tuition at UCLA is the only possible remedy, insists Ackerman, who notes that if the boy is not in school, he is regarded as truant. "You can't send him back to public school, because they don't have the means to educate a kid this gifted," he told WND. "The only way his intellectual needs can be met is if he goes to a high-level, four-year college."

In recently filed papers, the California Department of Education acknowledged Clancy's mother is "attempting to obtain the functional equivalent of a voucher for her son's university-level education," but insists the agency does not owe a "constitutional duty" to the child in this case.

Ackerman argues any failure to provide a suitable education is a violation of the federal Equal Protection Clause. "The one size fits all approach to education is failing the plaintiff in this case," Ackerman says. "At some point in time, we are going to have to realize that it is intellectual torture to require a highly gifted child to maintain compulsory attendance in a failing system that doesn't even work for average students." Ackerman asserts that at "a bare minimum, the CDE ought to be required to fund Levi's education to the same monetary level as provided on a per-student basis for every other child in the public schools, which happens to be between six and seven thousand dollars a head."

Regardless of who wins the Sacramento case, it likely will end up being appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Ackerman believes. "This case has the potential to overhaul a failing educational system, and may open the doors to a truly suitable education for each child within the public school system," he said.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


No comments: