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Student sues after 'sarcastic' tweet gets him #suspended

Some of our California readers may remember a time when what you said outside of the classroom had no bearing on your ability to continue going to school. But now with advancements in technology and social media, it seems like many school districts across the nation are extending their reach a little far, perhaps even encroaching on a student’s right to freedom of speech as well.

Santa Cruz parents can see how this might have been the case for a high school senior in Minnesota whose reputation may have been forever ruined because of how school authorities reacted to a tweet he had made. Now he is taking his grievances against the school in the form of a lawsuit for his suspension and near expulsion from the school.

In this particular case, the student claims to have tweeted a sarcastic remark regarding a teacher at his school. When school authorities heard about the post, he was suspended for five days. That suspension was later extended to 10 days with talks about expulsion. Before that could happen though, he transferred to another school so as not to risk his acceptance to college.

What was once a local issue has sparked national interest because it begs the question: should school districts be allowed to suspend or expel a student for something they say or do off school grounds? According to the school district in this case, the student violated the school’s policy against “threatening, intimidating or assault of a teacher, administrator or other staff member.” But is that really what he did or did the school district overreact and violate the student’s right to freedom of speech?

That’s what the teen’s lawsuit will hopefully answer as he seeks an unspecified amount of damages from several school administrators. It’s unknown at this time when the case will be decided on in court.

Source: NBC News, “Student Suspended Over 'Sarcastic' Tweet Sues School,” Phil Helsel, June 17, 2014

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