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1.13.2012

Howd & Ludorf, LLC Successfully Defends U. S. Supreme Court Certiorari Petition in Student Speech Case

Howd & Ludorf, LLC partners Thomas R. Gerarde and Beatrice S. Jordan won summary judgment for Regional School District 10 in what has been called the seminal student speech case in the Second Circuit.  In Doninger v. Niehoff, a high school student was disciplined for a blog posting made off campus, but which caused disruption to the school administration and high school staff on campus.  The student claimed a first amendment right  to call the Superintendent of Schools a “douchebag,” while encouraging  other students to “piss off” the administration by inundating  it with protest calls over the cancelling of a battle of the bands competition. However,  United States District Judge Mark Kravitz disagreed, denying a requested injunction and entering summary judgment for the School District in separate opinions.  Both decisions were appealed, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.  The plaintiffs sought certiorari from the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the recent evolution of social media cried out for a Supreme Court decision as to how far a school can reach off campus to discipline students for disruptive conduct.  Attorneys Gerarde and Jordan successfully argued that the existing body of Supreme Court student speech decisions provided ample guidance to schools when considering discipline for off campus student speech—and a new decision was unnecessary.  The Supreme Court agreed, and denied certiorari, thus ending the 4 year civil rights battle.

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