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A man claims in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that his free speech rights were violated when he was removed from a public meeting where he criticized school officials in the case of a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide after allegedly being bullied relentlessly.
Luke Gelinas says he was improperly ejected from a South Hadley school committee meeting April 14 when he attempted to criticize school officials' handling of the Phoebe Prince case, which has drawn international attention.
Prince, an Irish immigrant, hanged herself in January. Six students face charges connected to her death.
The lawsuit filed by Gelinas names Edward Boisselle, who was then chairman of the school committee, and two town police officers, Todd Dineen and David Gagne, as defendants.
Gelinas, who has a son who attends South Hadley High School, said he was speaking during the public comments portion of the meeting when Boisselle interrupted him, told him he could not continue and asked him to leave. Gelinas said he spoke calmly, stating that school officials could have prevented Prince's suicide. He said he also called for the dismissal of the school superintendent and principal, and for Boisselle's censure or removal.
Two police officers escorted him from the building.
During a news conference at the offices of Boston attorney Howard Friedman, Gelinas said he and other critics of school officials were "badgered" during the meeting.
"If you were there to talk critically, you were silenced," Gelinas said.
"This (lawsuit) sends a message to our kids that bullying at any level is not acceptable," he said.
Boisselle did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. During the meeting, according to the lawsuit, Boisselle said the committee would honor the privacy of the Prince family by prohibiting conversation about Phoebe Prince, her family or any allegations related to the case.
Dineen and Gagne did not immediately return calls seeking comment. The town's attorney, Ed Ryan, was in court and not immediately available for comment.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
This program aired on September 28, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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