Sacramento High School Student Suspended For Status Update, ACLU Claims Freedom Of Speech Violation
When Donny Dunlap was assigned three times the usual amount of homework in his 10th-grade biology class, he logged on Facebook to vent.
Once school officials found out, however, they de-friended him the way it's done off-line: with a one-day suspension from class.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that after administrators at Mesa Verde High in Sacramento doled out discipline, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter claiming the student's First Amendment rights were violated. Soon afterward, the school removed the suspension from Dunlap's record.
The Chronicle reports that his status update described the teacher as a "fat ass who should stop eating fast food, and is a douche bag."
With no "dislike" button available, the school instead claimed Dunlap was cyber-bullying.
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."