Football players who get frustrated by their teams’ performance often react in regrettable ways.
Press-conference temper tantrums. Shouting matches with coaches. Sideline fights. Locker-room donnybrooks.
And we all know what those reactions earn for those frustrated players.
So when a junior defensive end from the Rittman (Ohio) High School football team got a composition class assignment last Friday to write a poem about something that makes him angry, Nick Andre took a non-violent route toward letting his 1-7 squad have it.
But after Andre read his poem, “Stupid,” to his class, higher-ups at Rittman did a bit more than boo his rhyming skills.
Andre, 16, got a four-day suspension from school on charges of “hazing, harrassment” (sic) and a one-way ticket off his team.
“I felt like it was my right to express what I just felt,” a jilted Andre tells WJW-TV in Cleveland.
His principal doesn’t see it that way, ruling that Andre wrote “a mean and disrespectful poem about another student and our athletic director/head coach” and then issuing Andre’s “hazing, harassment” (sic) violation in his suspension letter.
“Who am I harassing or hazing?” Andre asks WJW. “I mean I didn’t state any names.”
Andre’s mother Julie met with the principal on Monday and tells WJW she refused to sign his suspension letter. “All he could refer to was bullying,” she says of the principal’s explanation, “…and my comment was, ‘Why would the teacher entertain this assignment, because…you don’t know what you may get from teenage kids. So to me, I couldn’t understand bullying.”
Cleveland Civil Rights Attorney Avery Friedman has won a number of cases involving students disciplined for expressing their opinions and says Andre’s rights have been violated.
“The breadth of expression, even in public schools, is virtually limitless,” Friedman tells WJW, “unless speech is creating material disruption to the educational process, which certainly isn’t here.”
The Rittman School District superintendent and the Indians’ football coach were asked about Andres’ suspension, WJW says, but both declined comment.
Here’s a report from WJW:
So what do you say? Is Andre in the right…or is the school correct in its actions?
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