LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — A pair twin boys suspended by the Lee’s Summit School District over a blog will be allowed back in school in two weeks, a U.S. District Court judge ruled on Thursday.
The ruling by Judge Howard Sachs does not make a judgement over the merits of the case, but allows the 17-year-old boys to return to school on April 9th, around seven weeks early from their 180-day suspension from Lee’s Summit North High School, where they are both honor students.
The ruling will allow the boys to return in time to try out for band, prepare for the ACT exam and other activities in April, and will allow time for the district to appeal the ruling.
An attorney for the boys say that the pair are “thrilled” to return to school. But according to the district, they will not be given any credit for the rest of the school year because of the number of days they missed. Instead, they will be allowed to audit the classes, and then make them up at a later time.
The judge said that he will rule on the fairness of the boy's suspension at a later date, but suggested that the boys are likely to prevail.
"It is a free speech case and I think it has potential long reaching implications," said the boy's attorney, Kevin Weakley. "And there's very little law out there on this exact point."
The district suspended the twin brothers in December for six months over a blog that called a fellow female student a derogatory term and a racially-charged comment made by one of the blog’s visitors. Now the boys’ parents, Brian and Linda Wilson, are suing the Lee’s Summit School District on behalf of their sons to get the boys reinstated immediately.
Judge Sachs listened to arguments by attorneys for the Wilson family on Monday. Attorneys for the Lee’s Summit School District addressed the court on Wednesday.
In their federal lawsuit the Wilson boys admit posting the blog and derogatory term. Another unidentified student used racist and vulgar terms in a comment posting that was made without the twin’s permission. The two students, both juniors, claim they shouldn’t be held responsible for what someone else posted. They also believe what they wrote on a home computer during after-school hours is protected free speech.
In their lawsuit, the Wilson boys claims to receive A and B grades and are both active in the school marching band. Now they say their hopes for college band scholarships are in jeopardy if they aren’t reinstated immediately.
“School officials are able to censor private student speech but if it’s off-campus it’s pretty much protected broadly by the First Amendment protections,” said Professor Daniel Weddle with the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School.