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High school student suspended for meme posts; Student sues school district for free speech

A Tennessee high school student is suing Tullahoma City Schools, saying the district violated his first amendment rights when administrators suspended him for posting three memes of his principal on Instagram.

One meme depicts the principal holding a box of fruit and vegetables with the words “my brotha” and “on god” over the screen. Another shows the principal as an anime cat and wearing a dress. Court papers say the third meme shows the principal’s head superimposed on a hand-drawn cartoon meant to resemble a character from the online game “Among Us,” with a cartoon bird clinging to his leg.

Court papers say the student posted these to his personal Instagram account last summer joking about their school principal.

“It was to lightly poke fun at a principal who was thought of as being a little bit overly serious and bring a little bit of levity to the personality,” attorney Conor Fitzpatrick said. Fitzpatrick is representing the student with the law firm Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, also known as FIRE. Attorneys are keeping the identity of the student private.

Court papers say administrators suspended the student for three days for violating school policy. It’s the same punishment given to students for fighting at school.

The school handbook prohibits students from sharing photos or videos that embarrasses, demeans, or discredits students or staff.

Court papers show the district also included a social media policy in the 2022-2023 handbook prohibiting students from sharing social media posts that were “unbecoming of a wildcat.”

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00:00 High school student suspended for meme posts; Student sues school district for free speech
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