Jack Christie has been given the green light to party with his friends at the prom on Friday night, but come Monday morning he won’t be allowed to step foot inside his school.
The Grade 12 student at Donald A. Wilson in Whitby has been suspended for the remainder of the year after posting videos he created for school assignments online.
The South Park-style cartoons earned him an ‘A’ when he showed them in class in November, but when he uploaded them to YouTube last month the school board stepped in. Jack was suspended indefinitely and police were called in to investigate the videos as a hate crime. Also in jeopardy was his senior prom.
At a meeting with board officials Friday, Jack was given permission to attend the rite of passage, but will have to complete the year’s schooling at home.
“I’m allowed to go to prom tonight, so I’m fairly happy about that,” he told CityNews.
He defends his videos as “political satire”. They contain sexual and drug references and one of his characters, a presidential candidate, threatens to wipe out a race of people.
Despite the controversial subject matter, Jack says his teachers enjoyed the work, with one even adding his voice to the cartoons.
“That situation has been fully addressed with the teacher,” said Martyn Beckett, Durham District School Board. “I’m not at liberty to comment on the actual actions taken with respect to the school and the classroom.”
After a brief investigation police concluded the videos were legally innocuous.
“We had two officers look at (the videos),” revealed Dave Selby, Durham Regional Police. “One is our expert in hate crime and we reviewed all the material. We didn’t see anything criminal.”
The Durham District School board is defending its decision to suspend Jack months after the videos were initially shown in class.
“It came to light in a much larger way in the school more recently so the school undertook a wider investigation,” Beckett added.
In the meantime, Jack’s plight has sparked a heated freedom-of-speech debate. Jack’s mother thinks the suspension sets a frightening precedent.
“God forbid their children say something on the internet that may be misconstrued and one person or two people may feel it’s not moral and they are in the same position as Jack.”
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has even weighed in, sending a letter to the principal of the school, expressing their concerns.
“Students have a right to express themselves, particularly outside of school in an artistic way,” said Cara Faith Zwibel, CCLA.
Jack has the right to appeal the suspension, and his father, an attorney, says a lawsuit is being considered.
With files from Avery Haines.