TULLAHOMA, Tenn. - A high school student in nearby Coffee County has filed suit against his school system after being suspended for posting satirical Instagram memes while off campus.
The 17-year-old rising senior represented by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, also known as FIRE, sued his public high school after the principal suspended him for posting memes lampooning the principal for being overly serious.
FIRE attorney Conor Fitzpatrick said... He went on to state, “As long as a student’s posts do not substantially disrupt school, what teens post on social media on their own time is between them and their parents, not the government.” The attorney suggested the memes caused no disruption at school.
Nevertheless, Principal Jason Quick slapped the student with a three-day out-of-school suspension. Quick and Assistant Principal Derrick Crutchfield claimed reliance on a school policy prohibiting students from posting images on social media which “embarrass,” “discredit,” or “humiliate” another student or school staff. But the Supreme Court held in 2021 that if a student’s off-campus online speech does not cause disruption at school, the school cannot censor it. That’s why students have an off-campus First Amendment right to say “f@ck school” on social media.
Tullahoma High School also prohibits social media activity that is “unbecoming of a Wildcat,” the school’s mascot. What that means, specifically and practically, is anyone’s guess. The Constitution, however, requires laws regulating speech to provide enough information so parents and students know how to comply.
“Administrators cannot wield vague social media policies to punish nondisruptive, off-campus satire,” said FIRE attorney Harrison Rosenthal. “Principal Quick suspended a student over playful memes — but he can’t suspend the First Amendment.”
FIRE’s lawsuit names Tullahoma City Schools, Quick, and Crutchfield as defendants and seeks to remove the suspension from the student’s record and halt enforcement of the school’s vague policies.
ABOUT - The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought—the most essential qualities of liberty. FIRE educates Americans about the importance of these inalienable rights, promotes a culture of respect for these rights, and provides the means to preserve them.