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Hartford Courant

Moms, Dads Urged To Be Stronger Advocates -- Courant.com

For people who want to see the relationship between parental advocacy and student performance, I would recommend starting with the report at National Middle School Association http://www.nmsa.or g/Research/Researc hSummaries/ParentI nvolvement/tabid/2 74/Default.aspx Key findings include: Parent involvement leads to improved educational performance (Epstein et al., 2002; Fan & Chen, 2001; NMSA, 2003; Sheldon & Epstein, 2002; Van Voorhis, 2003). Parent involvement fosters better student classroom behavior (Fan & Chen, 2001; NMSA, 2003). Parent involvement improves school attendance (Epstein et al., 2002). To cite just a few examples.  (Oct 22, 2007 | post #19)

Hartford Courant

Judge Rules On Student's Slur -- Courant.com

Random Comments: To LMH <blockquote> If we don't agree with you our assertions are patently false? So much for the freedom of speech you so gallantly fight for!</blockquot e> We are all free to say what we want. You are free to make assertions, I am free to point to court evidence that contradicts the assertions. I have not barred you from holding any office, nor have you barred me from holding any office. Nice attempt at irony, but it completely misses the nature of freedom of speech, let alone the issues of this case. To Middletown Joe: In fact, the ACLU in Connecticut filed an amicus brief on Avery’s behalf and a top lawyer from the ACLU attended the hearings. To Guess Who: Law is negotiation. There have been numerous attempts to mediate a settlement and the school board has balked at each one. By all appearances, they have been more interested in retribution than in taking advantage of teachable moments or making good use of the taxpayers money. To High School Teacher: You are right to note the lack of apparent action by the school board. They should have been more involved. It is worth noting that the school board did have an executive session during the hearing to discuss the case and the chair of the school board did attend the final hearing. To Southeast: You ask about former Freedom of Information Commissioner, and columnist for the CT Law Journal, Andy Thibault. I have been covering the case very closely as well and have gotten to know him. He is committed to the free exchange of information, and the school administration has resisted this left, right and center. He has brought a greater level of insight to this case than most of the people posting in this forum. I don’t believe he, nor myself, have claimed to be representing an unbiased objective opinion. We both believe that freedom of speech and freedom of information are important cornerstones to our democracy. We are biased and subjective in that belief. To Laura: It is important to emphasize whether or not a disruption is substantial in light of Wisniewski. The disruption was that the administrators needed to speak with parents. Personally, I always thought that an important part of their job was to speak with parents.  (Sep 4, 2007 | post #161)

Hartford Courant

Ruling On Blog Rant Troubling -- Courant.com

As a person who was at most of the hearings in New Haven, has read most of the exhibits in the case and most of the judges ruling, I have to say that this is one of the best articles written about the case, and the people presenting 'facts' here are presenting half truths at best. They just suggest that Avery 'improperly used school computers to distribute incorrect information to the community leading to disruptions in the administration'. They fail to mention that the use of school computers was justified during the court testimony, that the person who typed the email on the computer was not Avery and did not receive similar punishment. They fail to mention that not only are there issues of freedom of speech being violated, but also due process and equal protection. One of the commenters must be a mind reader to be able to determine that the apology letter from Avery submitted as evidence was not 'authentic'. They post talking points contradicted by testimony concerning what Avery had been told about the music festival. They criticize Avery for using the phrase 'pissed off', while they use it themselves in an even less appropriate manner than Avery did. (Again, they should refer to the court testimony about being 'pissed off'.) While one person might not want Avery representing their kid, a plurality of kids at the school did want Avery as their class secretary, something that the school administration chose to ignore. As to the Burlington Resident that is tired of outsiders telling people who to run the town, I imagine you have similar objections to No Child Left Behind, which is the Federal Government making rules about how schools should be run. That said, I don't want to criticize them too harshly. That opinion is one that I somewhat agree with. I don't want an overzealous school superintendent setting precedent in Federal Court that will affect the rights that my children have in schools in other districts. I think that gets much more closer to the real issues of the case. As I noted before, I have been covering this case fairly closely for my own blog, and I would encourage people to spend time looking at the issues much more closely. You can read my commentary at http://www.orient- lodge.com/Connecti cut Aldon Hynes  (Sep 4, 2007 | post #6)

Hartford Courant

Judge Rules On Student's Slur -- Courant.com

Let me add a few more comments. To the person who is asking about Avery's father (as opposed to her stepfather), the little bit I learned about the Doninger family, I learned in the courtroom. I do not recall any reference to her biological father, so I can't comment. To the person who complimented me on the balanced reporting I have done on my blog, http://www.orient- lodge.com , Thank you. However, I do not think of myself as at all balanced in this. As a blogger, I am a staunch defender of our First Amendment rights. Whether or not you think Avery used inappropriate language, did something inappropriate by encouraging parents to be more involved in the school, or did something inappropriate by challenging the authority of the school administration, I believe that what she did is, and should be protected by the First Amendment and that we would be a better country if more people were willing to stand up for what they believe in the say Avery has. As to schools teaching acceptable behavior, I believe they should do that, when the student is in school. However, when a student is at home, the school should not interfere the way it has in this case. Avery's mother dealt with the behavior and is justified in being outraged at the behavior of the school administration, especially after the principal testified, under other, that she ordered a school employee to place false information in a students file after the fact. It seems as if many people are unable to look at the vast collection of inappropriate actions of the school administration because the student had one minor, by comparison, inappropriate action. Please, spend some time learning about the case before you make assertions that are patently false.  (Sep 1, 2007 | post #96)

Hartford Courant

Judge Rules On Student's Slur -- Courant.com

Two quick comments: The issues of due precess and equal protection: My understanding is that the requirements of getting a preliminary injunction based on due process and equal protection is much greater than they are for free speech issues, which is why they were not as aggressively pursued in this brief pretrial hearing. I did not mean to imply in any way that they are any less important. They are extremely important. As to the role of the parents, Avery's mother was at the trial every day, as was, I believe, her grandmother. I met her stepfather at the hearing on one of the days, and I believe he was there for several of the days, but I do not know for sure. (I missed some of the trial because of other commitments, and Avery's stepfather may have been there the first day without me recognizing him). I believe the whole family is to be commended for seeking to address some very serious issues together.  (Sep 1, 2007 | post #78)

Hartford Courant

Judge Rules On Student's Slur -- Courant.com

Steve, et al. The issue of what kind of action was taken against other students was touched briefly on during the hearings. Of note, Principal Niehoff admitted under cross examination that she instructed a school employee to place false information into a different student's disciplinary log. Since this was a pretrial hearing, issues of falsification of records, destruction of evidence, and so on where not discussed extensively. There are at least three different aspects of how Avery Doninger's rights were violated. They include the right to free speech, the right to due process and the right to equal protection. The action, or lack thereof, of the administration with regards to other students who had encouraged students to contact the school, or other students who had used language that some consider offensive wasn't focused on since they are more in the realms of due process and equal protection, and less in the realm of freedom of speech which is the most important issue.  (Sep 1, 2007 | post #62)

Hartford Courant

Judge Rules On Student's Slur -- Courant.com

Conservative Voter: You do yourself a disservice by making statements that are contradictory to the facts. Avery Doninger was not brought up to curse and be disrespectful. The aspects of disrespect were dealt with in the family. (See the court records for details). One of the concerns of this case is when schools and courts start interfering with the how parents raise their students. You do yourself a similar disservice by referring to the mother as stupid. Have you ever spoken with her? Attended classes she teaches in college? No, you are being as disrespectful as Avery was when she used a slang term to complain about actions of the school administration. As to what Avery's prospects are for employment, I would say they are very high. Despite using a slang term in a blog post, she has demonstrated her commitment to civics, her ability to fight for a cause she believes deeply in and has won praise from a sitting U.S. District Judge. Any firm would be very fortunate to hire a person like Avery, even if she did say a naughty word once when she was sixteen.  (Sep 1, 2007 | post #58)

Hartford Courant

Judge Rules On Student's Slur -- Courant.com

KJS is correct, this is about a conflict of rights. When basic rights, such as freedom of speech, get affected by other rights, such as the right of a school administration to revoke privileges of a student, these conflicts get resolved in court. It was wonderful to watch Judge Kravitz as he spoke with the attorneys about how to understand the scope and extent of both of these rights and how they interact. There are many important nuances to the case that are completely glossed over in the article and the discussion here. Many were glossed over during the hearing itself, since it was a brief hearing to consider a pretrial motion and not the full hearing itself. I wish the newspapers did a better job of covering the issue so that we could all better learn the way different rights that we all have interact with one another. Aldon http://www.orient- lodge.com  (Sep 1, 2007 | post #56)

Hartford Courant

Judge Rules On Student's Slur -- Courant.com

Bill, if you read more of the coverage of the trial, such as I referred to above, I think the answer would be clear. She is teaching her daughter not to use offensive words, by handling the punishment in the family instead of in the schools. At the same time she is teaching her daughter to respect democracy instead of disregarding the results of an election because the people running the election didn't like the results, and she is teaching her daughter to honor the basic rights of freedom of speech that makes our country strong, even when someone says something that others might find objectionable. Having followed the case very closely, the mother is the one that has demonstrated the clearest commitment to the education of her daughter, a commitment much greater than that of the administrators who appear to act out of spite as opposed to out of any commitment to the education of the students at Lewis Mills High School.  (Sep 1, 2007 | post #49)

Q & A with Aldon Hynes

Headline:

Old Guard, Hardcore Geek

Hometown:

Woodbridge, CT

Blog / Website / Homepage:

http://www.orient-lodge.com