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ACLU looking at Rawlins case

| Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The support for Monessen senior Chavas Rawlins to be able to walk with his classmates on commencement night in June has drawn a very important organization.

The Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU of Pennsylvania said that it plans to speak with Rawlins in an attempt to fight for Rawlins' rights.

Witold Walczak, legal director for the Pittsburgh Chapter, said that the Monessen School Board is violating Rawlins' rights by not allowing him to participate in commencement ceremonies.

Rawlins, who is graduating early from Monessen in order to start his academic and athletic career at West Virginia University, finished school at Monessen on Friday.

He was told in advance by the board when he earned approval for early graduation that he would not be able to participate in the June 7 festivities with his fellow seniors.

Rawlins, who said he would like to walk with his classmates, said he was not given a specific reason why he can not participate.

“I suspect we could help (Rawlins) by just sending a letter to the school,” Walczak. “I would think it would take about five minutes to get an injunction from a judge.

“You can't punish him because he criticized you,” Walczak said. “Not in America. This is about as strong a First Amendment violation as I have seen, unless there is something I am missing here.

“Anything that he may have tweeted outside of the school is his right and is definitely a violation of the school to try to punish him for.”

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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