A teenage boy took a photo of his friend trying on an old German military helmet in a thrift store. He posted it on Snapchat with the caption: “Me and the boys bout [sic] to exterminate the Jews.” Two hours later, "C.G." deleted it and apologized. Too late. He was expelled from school.
A federal appeals court has reinstated the student's free-speech lawsuit, reports Mark Walsh in Education Week.
(Police) visited C.G., but determined there was not a threat. But the image spread among the Cherry Creek High School community.
School officials suspended C.G. before expelling him for one year for violating a policy regulating “behavior on or off school property which is detrimental to the welfare, safety or morals of other students or school personnel.” That decision was upheld by the board of the Cherry Creek School District.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that "a Pennsylvania school district violated the First Amendment when it punished a student for posting — while off-campus —a vulgar message on Snapchat expressing frustration about school and her cheerleading team," writes Walsh.
Like cheerleader Brandi Levy’s speech in the Mahanoy case, “C.G.’s speech would generally receive First Amendment protection because it does not constitute a true threat, fighting words, or obscenity,” the court said. The panel rejected the Cherry Creek district’s argument that C.G.’s post was uniquely subject to regulation because, as the district put it in court papers, it was “hate speech targeting the Jewish community” and “not just a crude attempt at a joke about the Holocaust.”
“[O]ffensive, controversial speech can still be protected” under the First Amendment, the 10th Circuit panel said.
There was no reasonable expectation the Snapchat message would disrupt the school, the court said.
I remember "dead baby" jokes from my teen years. Tasteless, not funny, but allegedly edgy.
I remember kids -- most of us were Jewish -- making Nazi jokes in fake German accents: "Ve haf vays of making you talk."
People make jokes, sometimes bad jokes. Teenagers often say stupid, thoughtless and offensive things. Kids should be able to make mistakes, apologize and move on.