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Students Sue School Over Suspension

August 18, 2001

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BOSTON (AP) _ Five high school students filed a lawsuit saying their school suspended them for comments they made on a survey about race relations that were supposed to be kept confidential.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the students, said the district was punishing the students for their beliefs.

``The real crux of everything here is that the students were told their answers were confidential, and that it was completely voluntary to respond,″ attorney Beverly Chorbajian said.

The lawsuit said the students were asked in late January to respond to the survey about race relations at Montachusett Regional Vocational School in Fitchburg, 40 miles west of Boston. School officials allegedly learned their identities from their answers, removed them from class and interrogated them.

The lawsuit said they were suspended for three days in January for what the school called ``behavior causing a dangerous condition″ and making ``racist comments.″

The ACLU said the students answers included comments that minority students were receiving preferential treatment from teachers, and that minorities were responsible for some recent fights.

The suit asks that the suspensions be expunged from the students’ records and that one student be reimbursed $25,000 in tuition.

School superintendent Stratos Dukakis referred calls to the school’s attorney. A message left at his offices after business hours Friday was not immediately returned.

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