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Ohio teen suing school over soccer suspension relating to marijuana-related retweet

Ben Rohrbach
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An Ohio high school senior is suing the district for suspending him from the soccer team over a retweet.

Bellville Clear Fork High's Jakob Neumann didn't appear in the picture of a handful of cannabis buds alongside a Sublime lighter, and he didn't type the caption: "Marijuana is my favorite." The 18-year-old was simply one of 18 people to retweet the statement, according to the Mansfield News Journal.

"It happened during the summer vacation, on our home computer — and he didn't make any mention of the school or the team," Neumann's father Alfred told the paper. "There's a constitutional issue."

While the Neumann's contend their son has a right to free speech, Clear Fork athletic director Benji Bethea reportedly suspended Jakob from sports for his entire senior year, citying the district's "morality clause" in regard to drug, alcohol and tobacco use. Upon the Neumann's appeal this past August, Bethea shortened the suspension to one-third of the soccer season, the News Journal said.

According to the paper, Alfred Neumann reportedly believes his son was targeted because of a shirt he and others wore to school in protest of a new drug testing policy for athletes and student drivers. The T-shirt read, "Say No to Drugs," and featured the handwritten addendum "testing" in fine print.

Claiming their son's scholarship chances were hindered by the suspension, the Neumann family is suing the administration for $75,000 in damages. They also believe Clear Fork officials destroyed records relating to the suspension and harassed Jakob over a bottled substance that turned out to be water.

While a simple web search of "Jakob Neumann" and "soccer" or "Clear Fork" turns up no results prior to the suit, Alfred Neumann told the News Journal his son maintained close to a 4.0 GPA, ranked second on the soccer team in scoring and received collegiate soccer interest prior to the suspension. Since the school levied punishment against Jakob, only one college has reportedly phoned about him.

"I've never actually done anything that would get me in trouble," the teen told the News Journal. "I didn't do anything that would be illegal."

While Colorado and Washington have effectively legalized marijuana and other states have decriminalized the substance, cannabis consumption remains illegal in Ohio. The use of Twitter, however, is still legal.

(h/t USA TODAY)

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