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Student Suspended for Hitler Comment

December 11, 1998

FALMOUTH, Mass. (AP) _ A high school student who was suspended for comparing his band teacher to Adolf Hitler in an e-mail says his free speech rights are being violated.

But city officials say they have a right to punish students for ``behavior that is a danger to the school,″ said Superintendent Peter Clark.

``The question of whether this was a danger to the school is open. It was a pretty outrageous opinion,″ he said.

Adam Muse, a 16-year-old junior at Falmouth High School, sent an e-mail to friends late last month referring to band leader Tom Borning, his wife and an assistant as ``Hitler, his wife, and Hermann Goering.″ Goering was a Nazi field marshal.

Someone apparently forwarded the message to dozens of students and one put a copy on Borning’s desk, Muse said.

``The school is spitting in the face of anyone who’s fought for free speech,″ Muse said in today’s editions of the Boston Herald.

Initially Muse was suspended for two days and banned from playing in the annual Falmouth Christmas parade. Principal Paul Cali then reduced the suspension to one day, but continued the parade ban.

Some free speech experts questioned suspension.

``Overstatement doesn’t nullify First Amendment rights,″ said T. Barton Carter, a professor of communications law at Boston University. ``The school is sending a message that they don’t believe in an open exchange of ideas and speech.″

``What’s going on with the First Amendment in Falmouth? The discipline doesn’t seem appropriate for the offense,″ said John Reinstein, executive director of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

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