updated 12/2/2005 8:47:02 AM ET 2005-12-02T13:47:02

In classroom journals, two star football players wrote in graphic detail about brutally killing their high school English teacher, covering her in gasoline and lighting her ablaze.

But in court papers, they say their teacher told them those entries would never be read, so they should be considered private thoughts, not threats.

Scott McKnight, 17, and Sam Smith, 18, were not criminally charged, but were suspended and face expulsion. An Orange County Superior Court judge was scheduled to rule Friday on whether the full journals should be sealed or open to the public.

McKnight and Smith and their parents say in a court complaint that teacher Alyssa DiSomma violated their privacy by reading the journals. They argue they should be allowed to attend school as they await their expulsion hearing.

The students were suspended Oct. 20, after DiSomma reported the entries to school officials. The case has divided Tesoro High School in the affluent suburb of Rancho Santa Margarita, where the teens were ranked among the top football players in Orange County.

Chilling entries
The entries refer to gluing the teacher naked to a wall and cutting off her feet, and killing her family while she watches, according to court documents that quote partial excerpts. The teens’ family members have said the two wrote the entries as a prank and egged each other on.

“I am planning on coming in your room late one night while you’re still working,” reads one partial entry. “I will smother you in gasoline and light your head on fire.”

Orange County Superior Court Judge Corey S. Cramin judge ruled that the journal entries could not be considered private. The court also upheld the teens’ suspension.

“Private thoughts lose their identity as such when they are reduced to writing as part of a class assignment and turned into the teacher for grading,” Cramin wrote in the ruling last month.

The court said it couldn’t keep McKnight and Smith from playing for the Tesoro Titans pending their expulsion hearing — but the two were benched anyway because of California Interscholastic Federation rules. By the time the disciplinary process is finished, the season is likely to be over.

An expulsion hearing was postponed until late December at the request of the boys’ attorneys. David Smollar, spokesman for the Capistrano Unified School District, said that efforts by the boys’ attorneys to “play to public opinion” have hurt the district’s ability to conduct a normal disciplinary process.

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