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Friday, April 06, 2007

Disturbing Incident involving Davis High School

A few weeks ago, a Davis High School student, a 4.0 honors student heavily involved in student government and community causes, turned in a poster for one of his classes on Malcom X. On the poster appeared the phrase, "by any means necessary" along with other phrases from one of Malcom X's most famous speeches.

This is a phrase comes from this context:
"We declare our right on this be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary."
The next day, the student came back and found that the poster had been taken down and in front of the class was told that this was a "terrorist" message.

A few weeks later, this same student was asked to give a speech in front of the school during Human Relations Week about a civil rights incident that he had experienced. He was given a choice and decided to do it on this specific incident. He then gave them an advanced copy of the speech which they approved. He was told that he could not specifically mention the teacher and he agreed to this.

He then delivered the speech, he did not mention the teacher's name. Apparently the teacher however walked out during the speech, he and his parents were called in by the Vice-Principal.

There were several different meetings between the father and the school, but suddenly unbeknownst to the family, the student was informed that he was suspended for three days. The father went to complain and was told to leave the campus and he ended up calling his lawyer.

These are the preliminaries on this story, more is likely to emerge in the coming days. But this appears to be a big story in the making. To me on the surface this seems to have been handled very poorly. The Malcom X quote was clearly not intended to be a "terrorist" message. The teacher clearly overreacted there. I mention this since the terrorist issue arose, that this student is an American-born Muslim. Apparently the ACLU has been contacted, CAIR is involved, and many of the student's peers are outraged.

The three day suspension is a very harsh penalty given the facts involved. Now did he break his word? I do not know. But that seems an extreme punishment for a student involved in an academic exercise who is not dealing drugs or starting fights.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting