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Yarmouth High School honor code lawsuit dismissed

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Yarmouth High School honor code lawsuit dismissed

YARMOUTH — A federal lawsuit that accused Yarmouth High School administrators of violating a student's constitutional rights after they punished her for allegedly breaking the school's honor code has been dismissed.

Michael J. Waxman, the lawyer for a 16-year-old high school junior and her parents, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on April 8. The legal challenge came after the girl was suspended from the varsity lacrosse team and sent to drug-and-alcohol counseling by school officials, who received a Facebook photograph of the girl holding what appeared to be a beer at a party.

Waxman claimed the evidence was unclear, the girl was forced into a confession without the opportunity to speak to her parents, was forced into counseling sessions with a school-appointed counselor, that her constitutional rights were violated and due process was withheld.

U.S. District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby on April 13 denied Waxman's request to suspend the girl's remaining sessions with the counselor, and said there was little likelihood of a successful trial based on the merits of the case.

On Tuesday, school district lawyer Melissa Hewey said the lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed on April 22. She said Waxman filed a notice of dismissal with prejudice, which means it cannot be filed again by the same plaintiff.

Yarmouth High School Principal Ted Hall said in an e-mail Tuesday afternoon he was pleased to hear the news.

"I don't think the way to make changes is through the courts, but through our existing structures in the school and district," Hall said. "We have an active, involved Student Senate that is interested in improving the honor code and I am very excited to work with them. In addition, our School Committee is interested in improving the code."

In an e-mail sent Wednesday morning, Waxman said the student has served the three-week suspension and the required six counseling sessions and has "grown weary of being the center of all the attention."

"She just wants to get back to normal, and get on with the rest of the school year," he said. "I cannot continue with the case if my client does not wish to do so, even though I feel that important issues regarding the constitutionality of the Code remain."

Waxman said he will try to continue his fight on the local level and will push for a town meeting to fully discuss the code, the way it is written, how it is interpreted and if changes are necessary.

He said the School Department's lawyer has ignored his requests to engineer a meeting, and said the department seems content to maintain the staus quo.

David Ray, chairman of the School Committee, said the code will be reviewed, but there is no formal process planned yet.

"We have always planned to look at the code," he said. "All changes to major policies have a public process and this is no exception. But, we are not going to hold a special meeting just for this issue."

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net