An Ohio high school student was suspended from playing on the soccer team for a year after he retweeted a post on Twitter that said, “Marijuana is my favorite.”
The Clear Fork High School senior Jakob Neumann, who is now 18, is suing the school district for violating his right to free speech and due process.
“I’ve never actually done anything that would get me in trouble,” Neumann said. “I didn’t do anything that would be illegal.”
His father defended him, saying he posted the tweet outside of a school setting.
“It happened during the summer vacation, on our home computer — and he didn’t make any mention of the school or the team,” said Alfred Neumann. “There’s a constitutional issue.”
The tweet was originally posted by @Lee_galize on July 11, 2013, and included a photo of a hand holding marijuana next to a cigarette lighter.
Neumann was reportedly given a one-year sports suspension starting Aug. 7.
In a lawsuit filed March 25 in Richland County, Neumann claims the Clear Fork athletic director charged him with violating the district’s morality clause and policies on drugs and alcohol.
The suit names the school board; it’s president, Gary Mathes; the district athletic director, Benji Bethea; and interim Superintendent David Ritter.
When Fred Neumann and his wife Jacquie attended a school board meeting regarding the suspension in November, he said, “Nobody will tell us exactly what policy it is that he violated.”
”I would like to take a moment and say that I am sorry for how things have transpired," board member Jim Jackson said at the November meeting. “Personally, I don't believe a policy was violated, but we can't go back. Did Mr. Bethea overstep, Maybe so. I do also believe that the whole incident could have been handled better. On behalf of myself and the board I apologize.”
The claim also states that Neumann attempted to attend a dodge ball tournament at his school on Dec. 20 and was escorted out of the gym by a drug officer and the dean of students. They allegedly claimed the senior was high and may have had illicit substances in his water bottle.
The water bottle was tested and no illicit substances were found, according to court documents.
“I’ve never sued anybody in my life,” the boy’s father said. “My kid states an opinion, and he got suspended from school.”
Alfred Neumann says his son may have been targeted by school staff after he wore a shirt to school that said “So No to Drugs – Testing.”
“It took the teachers several days to notice the fine print, and the school didn’t like it,” he said. “He (Jakob) thought it was unfair that they only tested the kids in athletics and kids who drove, but nobody else was tested.”
The senior, who graduated early from Clear Fork, seeks at least $25,000 in compensatory damages and at least $50,000 in punitive damages, plus attorney fees.