Court backs student after ‘ rapist’ claim at high school
A FEDERAL judge has come down on the side of a teenager student suspended for posting comments about a “rapist” on a bathroom mirror at her school.
Aela Mansmann admitted posting a sticky note: “There’s a rapist in our school and you know who it is.”
What at first appeared to be a courageous move has proved to be highly divisive — because there was no rapist at the school, near Portland in Maine.
Her note did incite a wave of fear in the area and saw fingers pointed and several male students ostracised.
The school investigated but when she said her message was merely aimed at calling attention to the wider societal problem of sexual assault, they suspended Mansmann for “bullying”, saying her actions had hurt, rather than helped others. Her family took legal action. Her lawyers said punishing her would discourage victims from coming forward.
“Speaking up about sexual assault is already difficult for young people. If this punishment had been allowed to stand, it would have only made it more difficult. Today’s decision reaffirms that students have the right to freedom of speech, and that they do not check their rights at the schoolhouse gate,” said Alison Beyea, executive director at the ACLU of Maine.
Mansmann’s mother, Shael Norris, said she and her daughter were “thrilled”.
“All my daughter ever wanted was for students to feel safe speaking out about sexual assault. I’m so proud of her for standing up for what she believes in,” Norris said.
The school has not commented but previously said Mansmann meant well but “made a really bad choice”.