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December 14, 2008

Student sues after being suspended over Facebook page

So reads the headline of this story, reported by Houma Today last Thursday.

Hannah Rae Jegart, a former student of E.D.White Catholic High School, is suing the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Bishop Sam Jacobs, the Catholic school superintendent, and also E.D. White's president, principal, assistant principal, and dean of students.

The suit is Jegart et al v. Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux et al, No. 2:08-cv-4841, pending before Judge Barbier in the Eastern District: docket (pdf), complaint (pdf).

Hannah had created a Facebook group devoted to E.D. White's "Apologetics" class called "Screw you Apologetics and yo wonky ass sources" with the following description: "MAYBE I DON'T WANT TO DEFEND THE CATHOLIC FAITH!?"

The complaint states:
12. The Facebook internet site that E. D. White High School officials declared objectionable had been created by HANNAH RAE JEGART to assist herself and other students with research for a paper in an Apologetics course assigned to graduating seniors in the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese.

13. All of the thirteen white students identified with the website at issue initially received short-term academic suspensions of only one or two days. The punishment meant that students could not receive credit for class work during their suspensions and received a failing ("F") grade for any tests given.

14. While all of the white students received only short term suspensions, the African-American plaintiff, HANNAH RAE JEGART, received an extraordinary nine-day academic suspension.

15. At the time defendant officials of the Houma-Thibodeaux Diocese imposed the nine-day suspension against HANNAH RAE JEGART, they knew the inability to make up school work and the required failing grads would preclude the plaintiff from graduating with her class.

16. At the time defendant officials imposed the nine-day suspension, they knew that HANNA RAE JEGART was an honor student scheduled to graduate Magna Cum Laude.

17. At the time they imposed the nine-day suspension, school officials deliberately tailored the length of the suspension to not only preclude graduation, but to cause forfeiture of scholarships and other academic honors that HANNA RAE JEGART had earned by her sterling and superior performance as a student at E. D. White High School.

18. No penalty was imposed or even considered for any of the white students similarly situated as registrants on the Facebook website. None of the white students received punishment or discipline that jeopardized their scheuled graduation or academic standing. . . .
Based on what I've read, the only thing that strikes me as incongruous is her lawyer's characterization of white students as "similarly situated" because they were registrants of the Facebook group (18) read alongside the admission that she was the creator of the the group (12).

But while I can understand that there may be a rational basis for treating the 'leader' differently from the 'followers' (if you will), but one or two days versus nine days - and screwing her out of graduating with her high school class - does seem unnecessarily harsh. Posted by MBC at December 14, 2008 05:07 PM
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