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High School Football Player Kicked off Team, Suspended Over Poem

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RITTMAN, Ohio-- 16-year-old Nick Andre says his assignment last Friday in composition class at Rittman High School was to write a poem about something that makes him angry.

The junior defensive end on the Rittman football team chose to write a poem he entitled "Stupid," about the Indians season so far, which has consisted of one win and seven losses. Andre told FOX 8, "I felt like it was my right to express what I just felt."

As part of the assignment, Andre read the poem in class and when the administration at Rittman High learned about the content, the principal concluded that Andre, "Wrote a mean and disrespectful poem about another student and our athletic director/head coach." The principal classified the poem as “hazing, harassment."

In response, Andre told FOX 8, "Who am I harassing or hazing? I mean I didn't state any names.”

He was stunned when the school suspended him for four days, and removed him from the football team for the final two games of the season. "It's like wow, just over doing my school work, I get in trouble, get thrown off the football team, you know get suspended for four days, which could potentially really mess up my grades," he said.

Nick Andre's mother says during a meeting with the principal on Monday, she refused to sign the suspension letter. Julie Andre said, "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."

Cleveland Civil Rights Attorney Avery Friedman, who has won a number of cases involving students who were disciplined for expressing their opinions, says 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," said Friedman.

We contacted the superintendent of the Rittman School District about the suspension of Nick Andre and he declined comment, as did the head football coach.

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  • Susan Curtis

    Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969) was a decision by the United States Supreme Court that defined the constitutional rights of students in U.S. public schools. The Tinker test is still used by courts today to determine whether a school’s disciplinary actions violate students’ First Amendment rights. Perhaps the real issue here is the fact that the school admin is uneducated.

  • P.Adkins

    This is so sad, I graduated from Rittman in the mid seventies. It saddens me to know nothing has changed after all of these years. I cherish the fact I came from a small school and community, it is very disturbing to see that it is still a narrow minded administration.

  • Doug Eggeman

    Sounds like he struck a nerve with somebody and had to be punished for it, ssounds more like the truth hurts and the school couldn’t let this happen. It sounds like the principal is the real bully here.

  • Name Witheld

    This is Complete bogus, they can’t do that, the only time a kid in my school gets suspended for 4 days is if they bring in alcohol or something like that!

  • Jim

    Well……… Sometimes the TRUTH hurts! You go Nick Andre, after all you do live in America. You might be 16 years old but your using your God given rights! If what you did was wrong then the media needs to remove the commentary before and after the NFL games. Do not give up Nick, the people are behind you!

  • gman18

    The last time I checked. We had freedom of speech. He was speaking his mind. He, never mentioned anyone. I think who ever suspended him and kick him off the team are stupid. There I said the word. Suspend me.

  • George Valachi

    Of course the Principal and Athletic Coach won’t comment. They’ve set themselves up as superior to everyone else. They need a good beating or better yet, why doesn’t the community hang them from a tree.

  • Betty

    Perhaps administration should pay attention to what the student wrote. He probably wrote about what other people believe. Shame on you administration!

  • Ray

    This is administrative bullying at its worst. Ask a teen a question and get angry at his answer. What a great example of childish behavior by a sick school administrator.
    If the truth is too hard to hear/read, then don’t ask a teen. They have no issues with telling their feelings. And I hope this young man does receive some compensation for being treated like a non-citizen. It time these work-place bullies are stood up to the same as the school yard bully.

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