Administrators at Central High School in Providence have allowed sophomore Eliazar Velasquez to return to school after the student was suspended last week for posting photographs of the school principal on a personal website. The photographs depicted principal Elaine Almagno smoking a cigarette on school grounds, in direct violation of state law.
Velasquez contacted the ACLU yesterday morning after being suspended indefinitely on Friday and being told to attend a hearing later this week where he faced potential expulsion for the rest of the year. He was suspended, according to the notice he was given, for “harassment and slander of the principal via the internet.”
Following a phone call from the ACLU, administrators decided to cancel the scheduled hearing and try to resolve the matter. After first demanding that Velasquez remove the website as a condition of readmittance, the school agreed late yesterday to immediately reinstate him unconditionally. Today the school further agreed to remove from his school file any record of the suspension.
The student’s website, at http://centralscoop.tripod.com, featured seven photographs of Almagno smoking, as well as commentary by Velasquez criticizing the principal for breaking the law. RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown said today: “We are pleased that the school has recognized Eliazar’s clear First Amendment right to make these photographs available to the public and to express his own personal opinions on his website.