Pubdate: Thu, 6 Nov 2008
Source: Anchorage Daily News (AK)
Copyright: 2008 The Associated Press
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Bong Hits 4 Jesus)


$45,000: Juneau School District Will Pay Student It Suspended.

JUNEAU -- The seven-year Bong Hits 4 Jesus saga appears to be over.

In a free speech case that reached the nation's highest court, the 
Juneau-Douglas School District and former student Joseph Frederick 
have reached a settlement.

Frederick was suspended during a 2002 Olympic torch relay for holding 
up a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" while standing across from 
the high school.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the school's 
position that Frederick celebrated the illegal use of drugs. The 
district will pay Frederick $45,000. In exchange Frederick will drop 
remaining claims not heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We're really happy to have this one resolved," School Board 
President Mark Choate said. "Every case involves different opinions, 
but we're pleased to have it resolved so we can focus more on the 
important work the board has to do to improve schools in Juneau."

Frederick's Juneau-based attorney Douglas Mertz says the settlement 
essentially brings an end to the case as far as his client sees it.

"It's time I think to close the chapter on what happened to Joe and 
leave these other things to be resolved in the future," Mertz said. 
The settlement also calls for the district to spend as much as $5,000 
to hire a neutral constitutional law expert to chair a forum on 
student speech at JDHS. This is to be done before this school year 
ends next spring.

The district also will continue to enforce its policies that prohibit 
its students from displaying materials deemed as advocating or 
celebrating illegal drug use, as permitted by the ruling of the U.S. 
Supreme Court, Choate said.

"The settlement in the case will avoid further litigation expenses, 
but more importantly will allow all parties to put a long-running, 
divisive issue behind them and move forward with a better 
understating of the speech rights of students in the Juneau School 
District," Choate said. Mertz said he believes the community has 
learned from this high-profile case. He said civics and First 
Amendment issues should be an education priority in schools.

Mertz said the saddest part of this seven years is what he calls an 
unfair campaign of retaliation the school district launched against 
Frederick and the young man's family.

"Joe stood up for his rights and has been vindicated."
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