Rittman High School in northeastern Ohio has removed a football player from the team for the last two weeks of the season, and suspended him from school for four days after he wrote a poem for English class criticizing his team.
According to FOX 8, 16-year-old Nick Andre was punished after he read the poem out loud during class. The assignment, given last Friday in composition class, was to write a poem about something that made him angry. Andre's poem, titled “Stupid,” was about the 1-7 Rittman High School football team.
“Wrote a mean and disrespectful poem about another student and our athletic director/head coach,” Brett Lanz, the principal of the school said. The principal classified the poem as “hazing, harassment.”
Andre thinks he had a right to express himself. “Who am I harassing or hazing? I mean I didn’t state any names,” he told FOX 8.
Julie Andre, his mother, told the station that she was in a meeting with the school’s principal on Monday and he did not want to sign a suspension notification letter.
“All he could refer to was bullying. This poem was bullying, and my comment was, ‘Why would the teacher entertain this assignment because you know, you don’t know what you may get from teenage kids, so to me, I couldn’t understand bullying,” Julie Andre said.
Civil-rights attorney Avery Friedman, based in Cleveland, told the station he believes Nick Andre’s rights have been violated.
“The breadth of expression, even in public schools, is virtually limitless, unless speech is creating material disruption to the educational process, which certainly isn’t here,” Friedman said.
FoxSportsOhio.com reports, Andre's poem gave the impression that he was talking about Rittman coach Bill Dennis and his son Blake, a senior wide receiver.
Dennis and Rittman superintendent James Ritchie declined to comment.
Non stop passes from best friend to best friend,
Continuously doing what doesn't work,
The inability to separate being a father and a coach,
But yet still the "super star",
Where's my scholarship?
I can drop passes,
And be afraid to take a hit.
That’s top of the line Div. 1 material right there.
If that’s what they wanted,
They definitely got it.
This whole town will be glad when he’s gone.
For anyone who doesn’t understand what I’m saying,