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MCLU Seeking Reinstatement Of Students Suspended Over Newspaper Article

June 4, 1986

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A federal judge today upheld the suspension of three high school students over an alternative newspaper article that said vandalism at a teacher’s house was funny.

Judge Donald D. Alsop offered no immediate explanation for his denial of a motion to lift the suspension made by an attorney for the The Minnesota Civil Liberties Union, according to the judge’s law clerk.

The motion filed Tuesday accused the Fridley School District of violating the students’ constitutional rights to due process and freedom of the press.

It was the second court fight involving the newspaper this year.

The latest case stemmed from an article published Monday in Tour de Farce, an alternative newspaper put out by a group of Fridley High School students. The article described acts of vandalism at a teacher’s home and said, ″We at Tour de Farce find this act to be pretty ... funny.″

″We’re very concerned about the apparent advocating of vandalism to teachers’ homes,″ Superintendent Dennis Rens said Tuesday.

Rens said he supports the decision of Principal Don Meyers to suspend three students for the remainder of the school year, which ends Thursday. He said those suspended will have to reschedule final examinations.

A fourth student involved in the publication was a senior and already has completed the school year, Rens said.

He did not release the students’ names.

In March, U.S. District Judge Robert Renner ruled the district’s policy requiring students to obtain approval before distributing student-written publications was unconstitutional.

The school district, which had barred distribution of Tour de Farce on grounds it was obscene, has appealed Renner’s decision to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. No hearing date has been set. ″We continue to find the language vulgar and indecent, but that’s a secondary issue″ this time, Rens said.

The school attorney, David R. Hols, said the vandalism article ″could be reasonably read to advocate vandalism against the homes of school teachers.″

″That’s not free speech, that’s like advocating violence,″ he added. ″Nothing in Judge Renner’s decision had anything to do with punishment for this kind of statement.″

Stephen Foley, the MCLU volunteer attorney who handled the students’ case before Renner, said the school is trying to punish students for exercising their constitutional right to free speech and press.

″(The article) doesn’t incite people to violence,″ Foley said.

Even if it did, he said, the school’s action was not justified.

″People have put out articles that might stir people to anger and controversy and the court says, ‘So what?’,″ he added. ″That’s the whole nature of a free society.″

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