WILKES-BARRE — A Dallas High School sophomore accused of a “cyber terrorism” attack on the district’s Internet server may return to school pending a hearing next week, a judge ruled Thursday.
Luzerne County Judge David W. Lupas issued a preliminary injunction against Dallas School District’s decision to suspend the minor student, identified in court documents only by his initials, allowing the boy “to return to school without restriction” and prohibiting the district from making any public comments or disseminating any confidential information in the meanwhile.
The youth and his family are represented by attorney Gary Michak, and they are seeking a permanent injunction.
According to court documents filed by Michak, the student was called to the office of Dallas High School Principal Jeffrey Shaffer on Jan. 24 regarding his computer use during a computer class the previous day.
While the boy was being held in Shaffer’s office, the principal called one of the boy’s parents to say that the youth “was being investigated as a cyber-terrorist, and that the district was considering referrals to law enforcement, including federal law enforcement,” Michak wrote.
That parent immediately went to the high school and was informed by Shaffer that the boy had been suspended for three days. An informal hearing was set for Jan. 27, at which time an extension of the suspension to 10 days would be considered, the parent reportedly was told.
The parent “was also informed that expulsion was being considered, and that it was likely that (the student) would be expelled from the district.”
But the suspension notice also indicated the student was not to be on school grounds for any reason during the three-day suspension, which included Jan. 27, Michak wrote. When the boy’s parents appeared on Jan. 27, Michak said the boy was not permitted to attend with them.
Inside, according to Michak’s filing, the parents were informed that their son “had cyber-hacked the district’s Internet server, had uploaded a virus and that the district’s technology department had terminated the ‘attack’ before the system ‘crashed.’”
They were then told their son was suspended for 10 days.
Michak argues that the 10-day suspension was “undeniably” made before the hearing, and that the suspension was imposed, at least in part, based on “unsubstantiated suspicions” by district technology director Bill Gartrell regarding computer-related incidents in the 2009-10 and 2002-13 school years.
Gartrell’s statements were contained in an email provided to the parents, but Gartrell was not made available for cross-examination — a matter of due process as required under the district’s own student handbook, according to Michak.
Michak also alleges that teachers and administrative personnel have “circulated rumors and non-public information” about the student.
Reached at home Thursday evening, district Superintendent Frank Galicki said he was not sure what case was being referred to by a reporter but he could not comment.
Lupas set a hearing for 1:30 p.m. Feb. 6.