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2 Students Suspended Over Fliers

June 14, 2002|RICHARD FAUSSET | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Palmdale High School junior Garrett Anderson says he started distributing underground fliers on campus after learning about the radical press of the 1960s in history class.

Now, Anderson and his stepbrother Michael Kinnon, both 16, are serving their second three-day suspension in two weeks for handing out hundreds of the one-page publications. The fliers complained about dirty bathrooms and the school yearbook's focus on popular students. They also used profanity, compared a campus security guard to a Nazi and referred to the principal as "a tad queer."

The Virginia-based Student Press Law Center has labeled the suspensions unconstitutional, and the boys' lawyer said he plans to sue the Antelope Valley Union High School District to have the suspensions expunged from his clients' records. Anderson's father and Kinnon's stepfather is Dennis Anderson, the editor of the Antelope Valley Press.

The law center and the boys' attorney, James Charlton, said the students are protected under California's "Leonard Law," which prohibits schools from punishing students for expressions that would be protected off campus by the 1st Amendment.

Palmdale High Principal Michael Vierra declined to discuss the suspensions, but said it is the school's policy to take action against students who distribute publications that are libelous or cause "a substantial disruption" on campus. District officials did not return phone calls.

Charlton said the first two fliers--which included the Nazi and "queer" references--were "a little over the line." A third student was suspended over those publications, Charlton said.

He said the second round of suspensions were for fliers with milder content.

Charlton contended the boys were punished because they would not let administrators review the fliers before distribution.

From his home Thursday, Kinnon said he understands why administrators were upset with the first two fliers, but that the school should encourage underground publications that don't flirt with libel.

"Let's let students know their rights and where their boundaries are," he said. "Constructive criticism of school officials is good."

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