Calling Your Teacher Fat on Facebook Is a Constitutional Right

Donny Dunlap was given a one-day suspension when school officials found out that he had logged on to Facebook one afternoon after receiving three times his standard amount of homework to vent. "[My teacher is] a fat ass who should stop eating fast food, and is a douche bag," Dunlap wrote.  The suspension was retracted, though, when the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union stepped in, claiming that Dunlap's First Amendment rights were violated by the school.

The ACLU sent a letter to Mesa Verde High School, defending the student's actions. They stated what the Education Code defines as discriminatory or defamatory acts and told the school that Dunlap's statement did not qualify. The letter said:

"Because Donny's Facebook posting posed no actual or threat of substantial and material disruption, it was protected speech for which Donny may not be disciplined."

Kristina Dunlap, Donny's mother, told California Watch that she didn't agree with her son's behavior, but she felt that the school-sanctioned suspension wasn't appropriate.

"We never encourage him to speak of any authority figures like that. That's not right. We don't condone that. But that's our business to handle at home. I can ground him for a month, and he can learn his lesson."

Sacramento School District spokesman Trent Allen told California Watch that school officials are working "to clarify the threshold required for suspension and avoid similar issues in the future."

Read the full story at the Huffington Post.

Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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