The New York Times, December 14, 1999

Free speech rights not for students, court rules
By The Associated Press

WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) -- An essay in which an eighth-grade boy wrote about an upset student beheading a teacher is not protected by the First Amendment, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

Wisconsin's 3rd District Court of Appeals said the four-paragraph story, which contains a reference to the teacher's classroom name of Mrs. C., was a threat. The court upheld a lower court's discipline of the boy, which he had challenged under his constitutional right to free speech.

According to court records, English teacher Rockie Caelwaerts sent the 13-year-old boy, identified only as Douglas D., into the hall to complete a writing assignment because he was disrupting other students during a class in 1998.

He turned in a story about a boy who was kicked out of class and returned the next day hiding a machete in his coat. ``When the teacher told him to shut up he whiped it out & cut her head off,'' he wrote.

The boy was suspended for a year and ordered to apologize to the teacher. Douglas is now a freshman at Oconto High School, about 30 miles north of Green Bay.

Return to Newsroom Index or to Table of Contents