PEMBROKE PINES (CBS4) – A teenager suspended from a Broward County charter school after she criticized a teacher on Facebook has settled a federal lawsuit against the school’s principal.
According to court documents, Katherine Evans will receive $15,000 in legal fees and $1 in nominal damages. Her three-day suspension for cyberbullying also will be wiped from her school records.
Evans was suspended in 2007 after her principal found a Facebook group in which she harshly criticized her English teacher, Sarah Phelps. After her suspension, Evans sued on grounds that her First Amendment rights were violated.
The former principal, Peter Bayer, who worked at the Pembroke Pines Charter High School, had asked that the case be dismissed. But Magistrate Judge Barry L. Garber denied Bayer’s petition and rejected his claims of qualified immunity.
Evans’ suspension first came to the attention of the civil liberties union in 2007. Then a high school senior and an honor student, Evans repeatedly clashed with Phelps over assignments, Evans has said.
She turned to Facebook to vent her frustration. At home on her computer, Evans created a Facebook page titled ‘Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worst teacher I’ve ever had’ and invited past and current students of Phelps to post their own comments.
Some students wrote comments agreeing with Evans’ criticism of Phelps. Others offered support for the teacher. After a few days, Evans took down the Facebook page.
Two months later, Evans said she was called into the principal’s office and told she was being suspended for creating the page.
The settlement was reached earlier this month. Evans is now a 20-year-old University of Florida student.
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