YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A federal judge ruled Thursday that the Liberty school district must allow a student they suspended for what they termed an inappropriate Snapchat post to participate in graduation ceremonies tonight.
The mother of the student asked Wednesday for a temporary restraining order against the high school so her son can participate in graduation.
Judge Benita Y. Pearson ruled Thursday that the student can attend his graduation.
A spokeswoman for the school district confirmed the ruling.
Acting as her own attorney, the mother, who is referred to as C.H. in an application for the order filed Wednesday in the U.S. Northern District Court of Ohio, said her son, P.H., was barred from participating in graduation by school officials because of an inappropriate photo of another student he posted on Snapchat.
The student’s mother said in her application for the order that the inappropriate photo was posted off of school property and not during school hours. The application said her son was at first teasing another student who was not allowed to participate in Senior Skip Day and the two began arguing.
The other student at one point told P.H. to “shoot the 30,” a reference to a semiautomatic handgun with a 30-round magazine, and then made a derogatory statement about P.H.’s mother. P.H. then said, “Bro I’ll kill you I’ll do what I did to the teachers to your family.” The argument then ended.
P.H. attended school for a few days after the chat before district officials investigated after someone sent them a screengrab of the chat. At a May 12 hearing, P.H. said he regretted his comments and was just joking but was suspended the day after the hearing for 10 school days.
In their response, attorneys for the school district said two years ago, P.H. assaulted several teachers and students at the school, resulting in two people being hospitalized, which is why the district took the Snapchat threat seriously.
The district’s attorneys said there is no harm to the student’s constitutional rights because the Constitution does not guarantee someone the right to participate in graduation ceremonies; threats against students or staff, even off-campus, are not protected by the Constitution; the suspension will not be reflected on his final transcript; and allowing him to participate could “affect the comfort and participation level of other graduates, particularly the ones affected by his threats,” and that no public interest is served by prohibiting the school district from taking against students who threaten to kill students and staff.