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Student loses bid to form high school anarchy club

By MICHELLE SAXTON
Associated Press
Posted November 1 2001, 4:56 PM EST

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A judge told a 15-year-old girl Thursday it would be too disruptive for her to form a high school anarchy club and wear T-shirts that included slogans opposing the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.

``The right of free speech is sacred,'' Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge James Stucky said, adding that such rights are ``tempered by the limitations that they ... not disrupt the educational process.''


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Sissonville High School sophomore Katie Sierra and her mother, Amy, took the Kanawha County Board of Education to court after Sierra was suspended for three days last week for defying orders not to form the club.

Sierra said she respects the judge's decision, ``but I don't think it's right. ... It's not over yet.''

Her attorney, Roger Forman, told the judge before the ruling that the teen is simply being punished for expressing an unpopular opinion. ``The Constitution is at stake, and that's what she's defending.''

School board lawyer, James Withrow, argued that the anarchy club would be inappropriate because students ``do not feel that their school is a safe place anymore. ... Anarchy is the antithesis of what we believe should be in schools.''

Principal Forest Mann said he suspended Sierra because she had fliers at her desk promoting her proposed club, despite his order against such actions.

Mann also ordered her not to wear a T-shirt this week with messages that included, ``When I saw the dead and dying Afghani children on TV, I felt a newly recovered sense of national security. God Bless America.''

Sierra said her beliefs in anarchy don't include terrorism or violence.

``I don't want war _ I'm not for Afghanistan,'' Sierra said after Wednesday's hearing. ``I think that what we're doing to them is just as bad as what they did to us, and I think it needs to be stopped.''

Sierra wore a white T-shirt to Wednesday's hearing with the messages, ``World Peace,'' and ``Abolish: Racism, Sexism, Homophobia.'' She was not wearing any messages during Thursday's hearing.

As for the backlash, Sierra said callers to local radio stations ``wanted to shoot me in the head. They wanted to send me to another country.''

Amy Sierra said her daughter _ who has uncles and a grandfather with military backgrounds _ is against terrorism, and Sierra supports her daughter's right to express herself.

``She shouldn't be singled out,'' said Amy Sierra, who wore an American flag sticker on her shirt.



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